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Germany rules against Facebook in data-mining case
09 February 2019, 10:30 | Hattie Nash
Germany's landmark ruling limits the amount of data Facebook can collect
Facebook users should be asked for consent before data collected by the group's subsidiaries Whatsapp and Instagram and on third-party websites is combined with their social network account, Germany's competition authority said Thursday.
The landmark ruling also means that users who refuse permission for their data to be merged will not be shut out of Facebookservices as a result.
Germany's anti-trust office, the Bundeskartellamt or Federal Cartel Office (FCO), made a decision to impose "far-reaching" restrictions on Facebook's gathering and processing of user data on Thursday, according to CNN, but Facebook chose to appeal the restrictions on Thursday.
In a blog post, Yvonne Cunnane, head of data protection at Facebook Ireland and Nikhil Shanbhag, director and associate general counsel at the company, said: "The GDPR specifically empowers data protection regulators - not competition authorities - to determine whether companies are living up to their responsibilities".
Facebook has already stated it will appeal the decision with the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court, though this should come as little surprise considering the attack on the foundations of the social media giants business model.
Regulators have objected to how Facebook used data on people from third-party apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as tracking people through Facebook "like" or "share" buttons.
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The privacy commissioner is separately investigating Facebook and Cambridge Analytica regarding alleged unauthorized access and use of Facebook user profiles.
Brussels-based anti-trust lawyer Thomas Vinje of Clifford Chance said the decision had potentially far-reaching implications.
Germany's justice minister said Facebook's move is "an attempt to create a monopoly" that poses antitrust and privacy questions.
"We are carrying out what can be seen as an internal divestiture of Facebook's data", said Andreas Mundt, president of Bundeskartellamt.
The German antitrust authority (FCO) has ordered Facebook to stop collecting data outside Facebook's platform without the user's "voluntary consent".
"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)".
They said: 'We face fierce competition in Germany, yet the [regulator] finds it irrelevant that our apps compete directly with YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and others.
The German cartel office, the Bundeskartellamt, has imposed new restrictions on how Facebook processes the data it gathers about users of Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp.
"And data protection regulators certainly have the expertise to make those conclusions".
As part of complying with the GDPR, Facebook said it had rebuilt the information its provides people about their privacy and the controls they have over their information, and improved the privacy "choices" that they are offered.
Germany has declared illegal Facebook's practice of demanding user information in exchange for the right to use its services. Users are more likely to stay within Facebook's properties if they can easily message their friends across different services, rather than having to switch between Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram.
Sandra Wachter, a lawyer and Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, earlier said (to WIRED) that Facebook's plan to merge the platforms is bound to trigger privacy concerns.
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