Germany won’t allow Facebook to take user data without ‘voluntary consent’

Facebook plans to file an appeal.

Feb 9, 2019, 4:38 pm*


Samira Sadeque 

Samira Sadeque

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Burdun Iliya/Shutterstock (Licensed)

German regulators just cracked down on Facebook’s data collection practices, and it could have significant implications for how the company operates in the future. 

Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, declared on Thursday that Facebook’s data collection of its users was an “an abuse of a dominant position” and prohibited the social media giant from “combining user data from different sources.”

The court specifically took issue with the way in which Facebook—which also owns Whatsapp and Instagram—uses data collected on users from outside the platform and “assigns” the information to the person’s Facebook user account, according to the Bundeskartellamt statement.

“Collecting data from third party websites and assigning them to a Facebook user account will also only be possible if users give their voluntary consent,” their statement read. “If consent is not given for data from Facebook-owned services and third party websites, Facebook will have to substantially restrict its collection and combining of data. Facebook is to develop proposals for solutions to this effect.”

In other words, Facebook users must choose to allow the social network to collect and combine their data in this manner.

“If users do not consent, Facebook may not exclude them from its services and must refrain from collecting and merging data from different sources,” said the Bundeskartellamt’s president in a statement.

Facebook plans to appeal the decision. In a statement released on Thursday, the company defended its stance and claimed that cross-using data across different platforms “helps to make them better and protect people’s safety.”

In the statement, Facebook officials also said there’s “fierce competition” with other apps which the Bundeskartellamt “undermines.”

Facebook claimed in its statement that its privacy policy is “beneficial” for its users, but recent research shows that nearly 75 percent of American Facebook users didn’t know their data was being “classified,” and at least 50 percent of them said they weren’t comfortable with their data being used in this manner. While this was specifically for U.S. users, it’s a reflection of the confusion many users have regarding Facebook’s privacy policies.

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*First Published: Feb 9, 2019, 4:37 pm