Facebook facing new EU, UK antitrust probes over use of customer data

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Facebook is facing up to fresh antitrust probes by regulators in the UK and Brussels over use of customer data. The social media giant is being investigated over its alleged use of customer data to dominate in major markets such as digital advertising, reports the Financial Times.

Brussels in a separate statement per FT,  said it was opening a formal antitrust probe to ascertain whether Facebook violated EU law “by using advertising data gathered in particular from advertisers in order to compete with them in markets where Facebook is active such as classified ads.”

The EU will also extend its probe to whether Facebook ties its online classified ads service “Facebook Marketplace” to its social network, which is in violation of the EU competition rules. Similar moves have been made by the EU in the UK to crack down on the dominance of Big Tech since the CMA became a regulator in January. Since the start of this year, the UK agency has initiated probes into Google, Facebook and Amazon. 

The CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli in a statement per FT, said: 

We intend to thoroughly investigate Facebook’s use of data to assess whether its business practices are giving it an unfair advantage in the online dating and classified ad sectors.

Any such advantage can make it harder for competing firms to succeed, including new and smaller businesses, and may reduce customer choice.” He added:

We will be working closely with the European Commission as we each investigate these issues, as well as continuing our co-ordination with other agencies to tackle these global issues.”

In her own statement, Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s executive vice-president in charge of competition and digital policy, said: “Facebook is used by almost 3bn people on a monthly basis and almost 7m firms advertise on Facebook in total.

Facebook collects vast troves of data on the activities of users of its social network and beyond, enabling it to target specific customer groups. We will look in detail at whether this data gives Facebook an undue competitive advantage in particular on the online classified ads sector . . . where Facebook also competes with companies from which it collects data. In today’s digital economy, data should not be used in ways that distort competition.”

Reacting to the investigation, a Facebook spokesperson said:“We are always developing new and better services to meet evolving demand from people who use Facebook. Marketplace and Dating offer people more choices and both products operate in a highly competitive environment with many large incumbents. We will continue to co-operate fully with the investigations to demonstrate that they are without merit.” 

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Author: Ola Ric

Ola Ric is a professional tech writer. He has written and provided tons of published articles for professionals and private individuals. He is also a social commentator and analyst, with relevant experience in the use of social media services.

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