22 October 2019
Germany's anti-trust regulator has found fault with Facebook's data collection practices. Photo: Reuters
Germany's anti-trust regulator has found fault with Facebook's data collection practices. Photo: Reuters

Facebook abused dominant position: German watchdog

Facebook abused its dominant market position, Germany’s competition watchdog said, challenging the social network’s model of monetizing the personal data of its users through targeted advertising, Reuters reports.

Presenting preliminary findings of a 20-month-old probe, the German Federal Cartel Office found fault with Facebook’s requirement that it gain access to third-party data when an account is opened, as well as how it tracks which sites its users access, the report said.

“Above all we see the collection of data outside the Facebook social network and its inclusion in the Facebook account as problematic,” the anti-trust authority’s president, Andreas Mundt, was quoted as saying in a statement.

This happens when a Facebook user views a page with a Facebook ‘Like’ button embedded in it – even if they don’t click on the button itself, Mundt said. 

The Cartel Office said Facebook held a dominant position among social networks – a characterization the company dismissed as inaccurate.

The anti-trust authority had “painted an inaccurate picture”, Facebook said, but added that it will cooperate with the German investigation.

“Although we are popular in Germany, we are not dominant,” the social network’s head of data protection, Yvonne Cunnane, said in a blog post.

“A dominant company operates in a world where customers don’t have alternatives,” said Cunnane, adding that the average smartphone user now accesses seven different communications apps or services.

In her post, Cunnane noted that Facebook abided by European data-protection laws and will comply with a new General Data Protection Regulation when it comes into force in the EU in May 2018.

The cartel office, which said it was working closely with data- and consumer-protection bodies, expects to publish the final results of its probe into Facebook in the early summer of 2018 at the earliest.

Although the investigation will not result in a fine, it could lead to assurances being sought from Facebook, or certain of its practices being banned, according to the report.

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