After almost three years of investigation, the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) has now reached its decision on Facebook, finding that the social network’s practices violate competition law and data protection principles. In particular, Facebook abuses its dominant market position to collect and combine vast amounts of user data on the German market without giving its users the possibility to object.
The FCO imposed the following conditions on Facebook:
- Facebook has to change its terms and conditions to give users a real possibility to object without being stopped from using Facebook’s services;
- Facebook is not allowed to process data without user consent;
- Facebook has to disclose which data-mining activities it is undertaking;
- within the next four months, Facebook must propose to the FCO a solution to these issues; and
- Facebook has to end all abusive conduct subject to the FCO’s decision within the next 12 months.
The FCO differentiates between two sources of data – Facebook-owned services and third party websites:
- With regard to Facebook-owned services (such as WhatsApp and Instagram), the FCO prohibits Facebook from assigning data to Facebook user accounts without voluntary consent from its users. If voluntary consent is not given, data must remain with the respective service and cannot be processed in combination with Facebook profiles.
- With regard to third party websites, the FCO prohibits Facebook from collecting and assigning data to Facebook user accounts without voluntary consent from users. If consent is withheld, Facebook has to stop its gathering and assigning of data from these sources.