Germany’s Federal Cartel Office has ruled that Facebook is no longer allowed to combine collected data from WhatsApp, Instagram, and third-party sources with the user’s Facebook profiles. In future, Facebook has to get the individuals permission to collect and combine this data. The watchdogs carried out an inquiry determining whether Facebook abuses its market leadership.
FCO’s president Andreas Mundt said that, “In future, Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook user accounts,” adding that “the combination of data sources substantially contributed to the fact that Facebook was able to build a unique database for each individual user and thus to gain market power.” The FCO also arrived at the conclusion that the vast amount of data collected cannot be justified by an “obligatory tick on the box” to the company’s general terms and conditions.
At the moment, this ruling only applies to the German market. However, this is likely to set an example for other countries to follow. According to the ruling, Facebook has four months to come up with a solution that takes the restrictions into account. However, the company has one month time to appeal the judgment. Already, Facebook stated it will challenge the ruling of the FCO. It defends their practices saying that it uses the collected information to tailor relevant ads to the user. It is also used as an indicator for advertisers as to how successful their campaigns are. Furthermore, Facebook claims the data helps them recognize fake accounts or possible terrorist connections and thereby protecting the users.