Germany sets new limits on Facebook data collection

Roman Schwartz
February 10, 2019

"The GDPR specifically empowers data protection regulators - not competition authorities - to determine whether companies are living up to their responsibilities", Facebook writes. Facebook has been granted one month to appeal its case.

The watchdog added that Facebook would have to limit collecting and combining data if users did not give their consent.

The decision does not deal with the collection and processing of data generated by the use of Facebook's own service.

In January, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg defended his company in the worldwide media, saying its advertising-based business model required collecting personal data.

Announcing their decision, they said Facebook-owned services such WhatsApp and Instagram can continue to collect data, but users will have to consent before the information is assigned to Facebook accounts.

'It is therefore precisely in the area of data collection and data use where Facebook, as a dominant company, must comply with the rules and laws applicable in Germany and Europe'.

"As a dominant company, Facebook is subject to special obligations under competition law".

But the EU's data protection supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli said in a blog post that "we have consistently supported competition authorities taking action to combat abuse of dominance".

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While Facebook is less widely used in Germany than in some other western countries, it has 32 million monthly active users in a population of 83 million and controls more than 95 per cent of the country's social media. In... That's because of Facebook's promises that it would keep the companies separate when it bought Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.

Facebook also argues that it is in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation, a set of privacy rules that went into effect into the European Union previous year.

'The Bundeskartellamt's decision misapplies German competition law to set different rules that apply to only one company, ' Facebook said. Facebook collects information from these applications and the user accounts associated with them.

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.

The initiative has found new relevancy following last week's TechCrunch report detailing how Facebook ran a paid research program named Project Atlas that appeared to target teenagers for their data. "Yet the Bundeskartellamt is trying to implement an unconventional standard for a single company", Facebook said. With judges considering the Facebook appeal, a win for the Bundeskartellamt could at as a springboard to wrap up the OTTs in more red-tape.

"Facebook should unify its privacy protections for its operations globally".

Germany's antitrust watchdog has hit the social network with a ban on combining user data it gathers from different sources, unless it has explicit consent from users. And it was done, Mundt said, without users providing their voluntary and affirmative consent.

The issue stems back to a payments feature Royal Bank developed and offered customers between 2013 and 2015, allowing them to transfer money through Facebook's messaging system.

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