Germany Attempts To Break Facebook’s Data-Gathering Monopoly, Facebook Appeals

Germany Attempts To Break Facebook’s Data-Gathering Monopoly, Facebook Appeals

Andreas Mundt, President of the Federal Cartel Office speaks during a press conference on the investigation by the German competition authorities for abuse of a dominant position by Facebook in Bonn, on February 7, 2019. The decision by the cartel authority allows Facebook to continue collecting data from its services like WhatsApp and Instagram.

If consent is withheld, Facebook would have to substantially restrict its collection and combining of data, and should develop proposals to do this within 12 months, subject to the outcome of appeal proceedings. WhatsApp and Instagram can continue to collect data without assigning it to Facebook user accounts, and Facebook may collect and process data from users of the Facebook social network. Between the two, Facebook gets more data. Instead, he said, its German users must be allowed to opt out of data collecting and processing while still using Facebook's network and services.

The ruling basically places a lot more onus on Facebook to implement specific, expensive measures to better track and utilize user data, while it also potentially limits the platform's capacity for ad targeting by keeping its databases separate.

Facebook plans to appeal the ruling in Germany. The FCO states that Facebook's "terms of service and the manner and extent to which it collects and uses data are in violation of the European data protection rules". On the other hand, Facebook says that the German regulator "misinterprets" it's compliance with the Europian GDPR Laws. The global privacy campaigning community and even the users argue that Facebook follows the users around all over the Internet, without the knowledge of the user.

"Privacy harms are directly caused by the business models of companies in dominant positions, which can impose excessive collection of data on people who have become "captive users", said the group's head of advocacy and policy Tomaso Falchetta.

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In its own statement, Facebook said it would appeal the FCO's decision.

To showcase the monopolistic powers of Facebook, the German office outlined that the social media platform holds more than 95 percent of daily German users and more than 80 percent of monthly users. "In the operation of its business model the company must take into account that Facebook users practically can not switch to other social networks", said Mundt.

It also faults the antitrust body for encroaching in areas properly dealt with by data protection regulators under the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a broad privacy regime that entered force last May.

Vancouver-based online publication The Tyee reported on January 30 on Facebook's dealings with Royal Bank, prompting queries from parliamentarian Charlie Angus to Canada's privacy commissioner at the January 31 committee meeting in Ottawa. "That poses questions in terms of privacy - and of cybersecurity", as that will be a single point of vulnerability for hackers to target in an attempt to gain social network users personal data from all the platforms, the report stated. Users must agree to the terms or be excluded from the social network, a hard situation that can not be considered voluntary consent, as required under the law. Yet in many of those countries, the primary messaging app is WhatsApp - another Facebook-owned property.

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