The Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s antitrust authority, has issued a ruling which requires Facebook to obtain user consent before it can continue to gather so much data about users from beyond the Facebook app and website.
In a press release, the regulator explained that under Facebook’s current terms and conditions, users can only use the social network under the precondition that Facebook can collect user data outside of the Facebook website or on smartphone apps. All data collected on the Facebook website, by Facebook-owned services including WhatsApp and Instagram, and on third party websites can then be combined and assigned to the Facebook user account.
The new ruling states that while Facebook can continue to collect data, it cannot combine it with the user’s main Facebook account, unless the member gives their voluntary consent. Furthermore, collecting data from third-party websites and assigning it to a Facebook user’s account is only allowed if that member has given permission.
Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt stated: “With regard to Facebook’s future data processing policy, we are carrying out what can be seen as an internal divestiture of Facebook’s data. On the one hand there is a service provided to users free of charge. On the other hand, the attractiveness and value of the advertising spaces increase with the amount and detail of user data. It is therefore precisely in the area of data collection and data use where Facebook, as a dominant company, must comply with the rules and laws applicable in Germany and Europe.”
If you have any questions about data protection or telecoms laws as they relate to Germany and Europe more generally, please contact Stephan Buck, senior associate (Solicitor and German Rechtsanwalt). For competition queries, please contact Tim Cowen, partner.