The German Federal Cartel Office has ruled that Facebook is abusing its market power. With the massive, combined data from Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, the government regulator has ordered the social network to seek explicit consent from German users to track and combine personal information.
The company must come up with proposals to address it. If it fails, the FCO will levy fines up to 10 percent of the company’s annual turnover.
Facebook blogs its grievances with the ruling here.
While we’ve cooperated with the [German FCO] for nearly three years, and will continue our discussions, we disagree with their conclusions and intend to appeal so that people in Germany continue to benefit fully from all our services.
Facebook says the FCO decision misapplies German competition law and limits German users from using the full extent of its products.
We tailor each person’s Facebook experience so it’s unique to you, and we use a variety of information to do this – including the information you include on your profile, news stories you like or share and what other services share with us about your use of their websites and apps. 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.
In Compliance with the GDPR
The GDPR went full swing less than a year ago and enforced new demands for companies operating in the EU.
Facebook says it complies with the GDPR and protects user information. It has improved privacy and provided more controls over user information.
The company will soon release a new tool called Clear History. It aims to show the info that Facebook receives from third-party websites and services who tap on the social network’s business tools. Better yet, users can disassociate it from their accounts if they choose to do so.
The Bundeskartellamt has overlooked how Facebook actually processes data and the steps we take to comply with the GDPR.
The ruling burdens the company to apply better measures to track and use user data. It may limit its capacity to unify ad targeting if databases are separate. And it will cost more to split various data points for one country or region only, while the rest of the world just rides along the company’s decisions.
Yet, the FCO decision may spark rulings that will fall in the same line.
Facebook feared this. With the Cambridge Analytica scandal and politically motivated interference by foreign groups, it is working hard to show responsibility and accountability. And rightfully so, as more than 2.3 billion users rely on the company to secure their data.
The odds are against Facebook. The evidence is mounting against it. The table has yet to turn. More watchdogs and government regulators are scrutinizing what needs to be done for the benefit of all.
If the German ruling holds, it will spur a larger movement. If Facebook imposes new measures to comply, the better.
The company will appeal and the FCO will reexamine its decision multiple times. More is yet to come.