German regulator bans Facebook from sharing data from WhatsApp, Instagram

Facebook banned in Germany from pooling user data without consent

The order also applies to the data Facebook gathers through the millions of outside websites that use its social integrations.

The Bundeskartellamt says Facebook users have only been able to use the social network on the condition that it can collect user data "outside of the Facebook website in the internet or on smartphone apps and assign these data to the user's Facebook account".

He said the pooling of data on particular individuals from multiple sources had contributed to Facebook's market power.

"The only choice the user has is either to accept the comprehensive combination of data or to refrain from using the social network", it said in its judgment. Collecting data from third-party websites and assigning it to Facebook would require consent.

On the other hand, this ruling is not yet legally binding; Facebook has up to a month from now to appeal the decision. While we've cooperated with the Bundeskartellamt for almost 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.

The German regulator noted that it didn't take issue with Facebook-owned services like WhatsApp and Instagram collecting data.

Through those practices, Facebook has been able to build profiles of its users that are far more complete than if it relied exclusively on recording their activities within the social network.

"The European legislator has made sure that there is now a regulation in place that addresses this type of conduct, namely the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)", it added.

The Federal Cartel Office ruled that Facebook will be able to continue gathering user data with various services and applications, but none of that data can be combined under a single account without the user's voluntary consent.

The German antitrust regulator's powers were expanded in 2017 to include consumer protection in public-interest cases where it could argue that a company - such as Facebook - had so little competition that consumers lack any effective choice. The reason companies like Facebook and Google have been so successful in the early days of the data-sharing economy is because of the accuracy of advertising.

"The Bundeskartellamt's decision misapplies German competition law to set different rules that apply to only one company", the California firm said.

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

Considering the control of Facebook on various social media indicative of a process of monopolization: users dedicated to social networks do not have substantially alternatives to migrate if they disagree with the policies on the use of digital platform data of the USA company.

The agency's boss Andreas Mundt said: 'As a dominant company Facebook is subject to special obligations under competition law.

The ruling is only applicable in Germany for now, but with Facebook currently under investigation in several other countries, could influence its future activities across the world. Between the two, Facebook gets more data.

The regulator said it had not included services such as Snapchat, YouTube or Twitter, and professional networks like LinkedIn and Xing, as being in the market it has considered Facebook to be dominant in because they "only offer parts of the services of a social network and are thus not to be included in the relevant market".

"RBC's use of the Facebook platform was limited to the development of a service that enabled clients to facilitate payment transactions to their Facebook friends", the bank said in its December statement.



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