Germany sets new limits on Facebook data collection

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FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Feb 7, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Germany’s Federal Competition
Office (FCO) said Thursday it would impose new limits on how Facebook
collects data from subsidiaries Whatsapp and Instagram, as well as third-
party websites with embedded Facebook features such as “Like” buttons.

Rather than requiring users to accept that such data can be folded into
their Facebook accounts under a one-off agreement to the social network’s
terms and conditions, users must in future be asked for their specific
consent in both cases, the authority said.

“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,” FCO chief Andreas Mundt said in a
statement.

“If users do not consent, Facebook may not exclude them from its services
and must refrain from collecting and merging data from different sources.”

The FCO found that Facebook has a “dominant” position in social networking
in Germany, with its 23 million daily active users representing 95 percent of
the market — meaning there is no viable alternative service for most people.

That meant that “Facebook’s conduct represents above all a so-called
exploitative abuse,” the authority argued.

“The only choice the user has is either to accept the comprehensive
combination of data or to refrain from using the social network,” Mundt said.

“In such a difficult situation the user’s choice cannot be referred to as
voluntary consent.”

In its own statement, Facebook said it would appeal the FCO’s decision.

“The Bundeskartellamt’s decision misapplies German competition law to set
different rules that apply to only one company,” the California firm said,
adding that “we face fierce competition in Germany” from the likes of
YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter.

Rather than the FCO, the Irish Data Protection Commission should be
overseeing Facebook’s use of data as the company’s European HQ is based in
Dublin, the social network said.

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