Germany Tells Facebook Nein

Today In Security: Germany Tells Facebook Nein to Forced Data Collection

Germany's antitrust office ordered Facebook to rein in its data collection of social media users.

In a 7 February ruling, the country's Federal Cartel Office (FCO) determined the company is abusing its market dominance by pooling data from Instagram, WhatsApp, and third-party websites to collect information about users without explicit consent. The data was used by the social media giant to create individual user profiles to gain greater market power, according to the FCO. Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014. The decision was the result of a probe spanning three years, Reuters reported.

​​Moving forward, Facebook will require German users' explicit approval to collect and combine this data, instead of forcing users to agree to nearly-unrestricted collection and appropriation of non-Facebook data to their Facebook accounts. Failure to create proposals to accomplish this and comply with the ruling could result in the FCO imposing fines of up to 10 percent of the company's annual revenue, which in this instance is approximately $5.5 billion.

Facebook intends to appeal the decision and in a blog post said that the FCO underestimated the company's competition while also undermining European privacy rules that took effect in 2018.

The case could cause a ripple effect for Facebook should other antitrust regulators attempt to dismantle Facebook due to its widespread control of user data. The European Commission said it took note of the FCO decision, according to CNN.

Facebook has had its share of other user issues, including allowing the spread of government propaganda. In April 2017, Security Management featured an article about Facebook's reactions​ to curb the spreading of false news, disinformation, and attempts to manipulate public opinion.