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Germany’s anti-trust body to order FB to stop gathering unspecified user data

Court Judiciary

Germany’s anti-trust regulator plans to order Facebook to stop gathering some user data (unspecified), reports Reuters. The regulator, Federal Cartel Office, will tell Facebook in a ruling as to what action it would have to take in the next few weeks.

The Federal Cartel Office has been investigating Facebook for anti-competitive behavior since 2015, and found that Facebook abused its market position to gather data of users without their knowledge or consent.

An anti-trust case challenging data abuse

A year ago, after a probe, the regulator’s preliminary conclusions were that Facebook was using its market position as a social media giant to track users illegally across the internet in order to maintain its position as the dominant online advertiser. The findings said that Facebook’s requirements from users allows it to “limitlessly amass every kind of data generated by using third-party websites.” These services include services owned by Facebook — WhatsApp and Instagram, and other websites and apps embedded with Facebook APIs, stated the regulator.

The findings also questioned whether users “effectively” consent to such form of data collection and processing, and that users have to either accept the “whole package”, presumably meaning that users either have to agree to Facebook’s terms and conditions, or do without the service.

At the time, Facebook had said that the findings present an inaccurate picture of the platform, and denied that it was preventing competition, since many other companies offered similar services.

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Over the last year, the regulator has warned that it plans action (again, unspecified) on Facebook. Reuters reported that the probe is unlikely to result in penalties on Facebook, but the regulator could require Facebook to take action to address its concerns.

Again in November, the head of the anti-trust regulator said that he was “very optimistic” that his office would take action against the company based on its findings, after evaluating Facebook’s opinion on the regulator’s findings.

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