Facebook Restricts by Germany’s Regulator

Germany’s antitrust regulator commanded a restriction on Facebook’s data collection practices after the world’s biggest social network misused its market ascendancy to collect information about users without their knowledge or permission.

Facebook logo and a woman looks into the smartphone.

Facebook said it would plea the landmark reigning on Thursday by the Federal Cartel Office, the high point of a three-year investigation, saying the regulator underestimated the rivalry it faced and subvert Europe-broad privacy rules that took result a year ago.

“In future, Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook accounts,” Cartel Office Chief Andreas Mundt said.

The discoveries follow fierce examination of Facebook over a series of privacy lapses, including the disclosure of information on tens of millions of FB users, as well as the large use of targeted ads by foreign powers trying to influence elections in the United States.

The cartel office complained especially to how FB gets information on people from third-party apps – including its own WhatsApp and Instagram services – and its online tracking of people who aren’t even members.

That includes tracking people to websites with an implanted FB ‘like’ or share button – and pages where it observes people although there is no obvious sign the social network is existing.

The reigning does not yet have lawful force and Facebook has a month to plea, which the social network said it would do.

“We disagree with their conclusions and intend to appeal so that people in Germany continue to benefit fully from all our services,” Facebook said in a blog post.

“The Bundeskartellamt underestimates the fierce competition we face in Germany, misinterprets our compliance with the GDPR, and threatens the mechanism European law provides for ensuring consistent data protection standards across the EU.”

In its command, the Cartel Office said it would solely be possible to allocate data from WhatsApp or Instagram to Facebook subject to the voluntary permission of users.

Gathering data from third-party websites and allocating them to Facebook would only be enabled if users give their voluntary permission.

If permission is withheld, Facebook would have to substantially limit its collection and consolidating of information, and should develop suggestions for solutions to do this in 12 months, Mundt said.

Facebook, replying, said the Cartel Office failed to identify that it competes with other online services, such as video app YouTube or Twitter, the short-messaging service, for people’s attention.

It also faults the antitrust body for trespassing in areas properly dealt with by data security regulators under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), an expansive privacy system that entered force last May.

“We support the GDPR and take our obligations seriously. Yet the Bundeskartellamt’s decision misapplies German competition law to set different rules that apply to only one company,” Facebook said in its blog.

As a major aspect of consenting to the GDPR, Facebook said it had restored the data it provides people about their privacy and the controls they have over their information, and developed the privacy ‘choices’ that they are offered. It would also soon debut a ‘clear history’ feature.

“The (Cartel Office) has overlooked how Facebook actually processes data and the steps we take to comply with the GDPR,” Facebook said.

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