Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s national competition regulator, has today ordered Facebook to restrict how it collects and combines data about its users without their explicit consent, BBC News is reporting. In simple terms, it means that user data from WhatsApp or Instagram can no longer be processed in combination with Facebook data.
Facebook’s terms and conditions state that the social network can collect user data outside of its website, such as from smartphone apps, and assign that data to the user’s Facebook account. Furthermore, data collected from WhatsApp, Instagram, and even third-party apps, can also be combined and assigned to the Facebook user account.
According to the German watchdog, which carried out a probe into the social network following concerns that members were unaware of the extent of the firm’s activities, “an obligatory tick on the box” to agree to all the company’s terms was not a sufficient basis for “such intensive data processing”:
The ruling only applies to the firm’s activities in Germany, but is likely to influence other regulators.
Facebook claims the Federal Cartel Office has overstepped the mark by pursuing a data privacy matter that Facebook says falls under the remit of another regulator.
It has one month to challenge the ruling before it becomes legally effective. If the order is upheld, the company must develop technical solutions to ensure it complies within four months. If it refused to do so, it could in theory be fined up to 10% of its annual revenues.
Facebook is now preparing to appeal the decision on the basis that combining data allows it to show more relevant ads to consumers, while also making it easier for the company to identify fake accounts.