Germany says 'nein' to Facebook's heavy-handed data collection in landmark ruling

Facebook banned in Germany from pooling user data without consent

Facebook banned in Germany from pooling user data without consent

The firm "is abusing this dominant position by making the use of its social network conditional on its being allowed to limitlessly amass every kind of data generated by using third-party websites and merge it with the user's Facebook account", it said in a statement.

These have gone down badly with Germans, reflecting broader concerns over personal surveillance that dates back to Germany's history of Nazi and Communist rule in the 20th century.

The damage to competition is not caused by any financial loss, given that Facebook is a free service, but by a loss of control: Facebook users are unable to control what data is used for Facebook's profiling.

"The extent to which Facebook collects, merges and uses data in user accounts constitutes an abuse of a dominant position", the Bundeskartellamt said. Voluntary consent means that the use of Facebook's services must not be subject to the users' consent to their data being collected and combined in this way.

"Using information across our services also helps us protect people's safety and security, including, for example, identifying abusive behavior and disabling accounts tied to terrorism, child exploitation and election interference across both Facebook and Instagram", said Facebook.

Facebook disagreed with the conclusions of the regulator's investigation and said it intends to appeal the decision.

In January, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg defended his company in the global media, saying its advertising-based business model required collecting personal data. He further added that according to the ruling, effective immediately, the popular social network will no longer be entitled to encourage Facebook users to consent to the "unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook user accounts", Thenextweb reported.

Brussels-based anti-trust lawyer Thomas Vinje of Clifford Chance said the decision had potentially far-reaching implications.

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"It's limited to Germany but strikes me as exportable and might have a significant impact on Facebook's business model".

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.

The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new data protection law that entered into force on May 25, 2018.

The regulator said it had not included services such as Snapchat, YouTube or Twitter, and professional networks like LinkedIn and Xing, as being in the market it has considered Facebook to be dominant in because they "only offer parts of the services of a social network and are thus not to be included in the relevant market".

'The Bundeskartellamt has overlooked how Facebook actually processes data and the steps we take to comply with the GDPR, ' Facebook said on Thursday.

The finding by the federal cartel office in Bonn is one of the strongest verdicts issued against Facebook by a national regulator and stung the firm into launching a swift challenge through the German courts.

Facebook claims that "over 40 per cent of social media users in Germany don't even use Facebook", which seems like an odd claim since 60 per cent market share would be considered monopolistic in nearly any other industry.

The FCO has said that the different platforms can continue to collect data, but this will need to be kept separate from other services unless the user gives their permission.

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