Saturday, 16 February, 2019

German antitrust authorities restrict Facebook data use

Video AP Video AP
Laurie Berry | 09 February, 2019, 22:30

Facebook published a statement following that report that said its partnerships or features didn't give companies access to information without people's permission, and Royal Bank said separately at the time it didn't have the ability to see user messages. It's a code snippet that companies can embed in their websites to capture notable events, such as if a user orders a product after following a Facebook advertisement.

In response, Facebook has published a blog post outlining its various grievances with the ruling.

Germany's Federal Cartel Office - or Bundeskartellamt - warned the company that within the year, it must stop collecting the data of unsuspecting consumers and combining it with their Facebook accounts.

If Facebook's appeal is unsuccessful, the company will only have four months to ensure that data gleaned from third-party sources, including WhatsApp and Instagram, are no longer combined with other user data without that user's explicit consent. The company was earlier slapped with a $112 million fine for "misleading" regulators about its ability to match WhatsApp profile data to Facebook accounts. This ruling could have a notable impact.

Kevin Durant went all in on the media
Durant, who is active on social media, spent Sunday liking many tweets that opposed the article. I think you guys would agree he's been really good with the media, with you guys.

Without such consent, Facebook would be free to collect data but would not be allowed to pool it with other information on a particular individual.

Germany, where privacy concerns run deep, is in the forefront of a global backlash against Facebook, fueled by last year's Cambridge Analytica scandal in which tens of millions of Facebook profiles were harvested without their users' consent.

Facebook claims that "over 40 per cent of social media users in Germany don't even use Facebook", which seems like an odd claim since 60 per cent market share would be considered monopolistic in nearly any other industry. When it started operating in Europe more than a decade ago, data-protection regulators were toothless. Most recently, Facebook was caught putting spyware on the phones of teenagers for "research" purposes. It has now prohibited this practice, which it says exploits Facebook users. This is not what anyone would consider transparent and should be addressed in all markets, not just Germany.

Andreas Mundt, President of the Federal Cartel Office speaks during a press conference on the investigation by the German competition authorities for abuse of a dominant position by Facebook in Bonn, on February 7, 2019. Ireland's data privacy regulator, which takes charge of European privacy probes involving Facebook, asked for an "urgent briefing" last month and said it will be "very closely scrutinizing Facebook's plans as they develop". It certainly will be able to obtain consent from many, but it would be a dent to the increasing under-fire advertising machine. Regulators should be uneasy with this precedent from Germany and it seems they are. However, the social giants and their slippery lawyers are doing their best to resist. Essentially, if Facebook combines its messaging services so that they are different in name and design only, it will be much more hard, if not impossible, to then separate out and spin off Instagram and WhatsApp as separate companies. For years, the internet players have been sliding between rules created to parallel industries, exposing the grey and unregulated areas, as rule makers consistently struggle to keep pace with technological progress. There's a lot more to come yet, Facebook will appeal, the decision will be re-examined over and over again in detail. More watchdogs and government regulators are scrutinizing what needs to be done for the benefit of all.

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