Economy

Germany Says Facebook Cannot Combine Data From WhatsApp, Instagram

Germany Says Facebook Cannot Combine Data From WhatsApp, Instagram”

Yesterday Germany's Federal Cartel Office, the country's antitrust regulator, says that Facebook needs user consent before it merges data from Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. The regulator's order explicitly said that Facebook cannot block users from using its services if they disagree with the data merger from different sources.

"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 user accounts", said FCO president Andreas Mundt.

The agency also accused Facebook of abusing this market monopoly by telling users that when they agree to the Terms of Service for the Facebook platform they also agree to having data collected about them from other sources associated with their accounts. The office demanded Facebook has to seek German users' explicit consent to collect and combine this kind of data, according to CNN. In addition to inviting community group leaders to the summit, Facebook for the first time this year also invited leaders of local business and nonprofit groups.

Facebook did that, Mundt's office said, by compiling data from its website, apps and Facebook-owned services - along with seemingly any website that has Facebook's "Like" or "Share" buttons, or a Facebook login box built into their pages.

"With 23 million daily active users [in Germany] and 32 million monthly active users Facebook has a market share of more than 95 per cent (daily active users) and more than 80 per cent (monthly active users)". It was unhappy with the way the social networking giant combined user data from different sources, often without users being aware of what was happening.

"It seems to me that the Federal Cartel Office is informed by data protections, but not dependent on them, and that it has based its decision squarely on competition law", he said.

He gave Facebook four months to present a "concept" for compliance and a year to implement it. Google Inc. was fined a record 50 million euros by the French privacy authority in January. The decision is not about Facebook's processing of data generated by its own site, which the Cartel Office acknowledged is the business model for data-based social networks like Facebook.

Facebook said German authorities underestimated the competition Facebook has in Germany from YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and others.

German Justice Minister Katarina Barley on Thursday welcomed a crackdown by Germany's antitrust watchdog on Facebook's data collection practices, saying the company was collecting data far beyond its platform. "We need to be rigorous in tackling the abuse of power that comes with data", she said.

By the end of Facebook's statement the company leans heavily into the claim that everybody else is doing it, so why can't they-which may be the most terrifying point.

Facebook strongly disagrees with the decision and will appeal against it.

In the past 12 months the firm has been battered by repeated scandals. Many of its provisions are created to make sure users have more control over how their data is collected and processed.

In the latest high-profile backlash against the social network, German officials argue that Facebook has been exploiting its dominant position in social media. That includes combining the data Facebook gains about users from external websites into their backend Facebook profiles.

The same consultancy worked on both the Leave campaign in the UK's Brexit referendum of 2016 and on Donald Trump's election campaign in the same year. By not obtaining sufficient user consent for collecting the data from other apps and sites, the company abused its dominant position in the market and violated European Union personal data protection law, the German regulator said.



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