Germany bans Facebook from combining user data collected from Instagram and WhatsApp

Germany bans Facebook from combining user data collected from Instagram and WhatsApp

The Cartel's probe, which follows a number of high-profile privacy screw-ups at Facebook, concluded that the firm has a "dominant" position in social networking in Germany, with its 23 million daily active users representing 95 per cent of the market; this means that "Facebook's conduct represents above all a so-called exploitative abuse", the authority said.

The German regulator noted that it didn't take issue with Facebook-owned services like WhatsApp and Instagram collecting data. When a Facebook account holder engages with such services or sites, data are transmitted to Facebook, that can then combine it with the user's Facebook account.

In particular, the German court was scathing of Facebook's pooling of people's data on third-party applications, like WhatsApp and Instagram, coupled with its online-tracking mechanisms of non-members through "likes" and 'shares'.

In a similar vein, Facebook will only be allowed to collate data from third-party websites and link it to a user's account only if they have given consent.

Facebook did that, Mundt's office said, by compiling data from its website, apps and Facebook-owned services - along with seemingly any website that has Facebook's "Like" or "Share" buttons, or a Facebook login box built into their pages.

The firm recently announced plans to go further and integrate the technology behind the chat services of Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

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"We are carrying out what can be seen as an internal divestiture of Facebook's data", said Andreas Mundt, president of Bundeskartellamt.

The ruling is yet to have any legal force and Facebook have subsequently confirmed that they will lodge a formal appeal. The regulator said this is against European Union data protection laws. Germany has consistently been one of the leading nations attempting to tackle the power and influence of the internet players, creating a more tightknit regulatory framework which you would naturally expect in business. "That poses questions in terms of privacy - and of cybersecurity", as that will be a single point of vulnerability for hackers to target in an attempt to gain social network users personal data from all the platforms, the report stated.

Facebook released a blog post Thursday directly refuting the order, entitled "Why We Disagree With the Bundeskartellamt" (the name of the agency). Tellingly, the company didn't mention how numerous 40 percent of non-Facebook users had installed Instagram or WhatsApp and glossed over the ubiquity of its "like" and "share" buttons entirely.

The company said it faced "fierce" competition in Germany from YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and others and that the FCO's concerns were a matter for data regulators, and not competition officials. To come to this conclusion the FCO cooperated closely with data protection authorities.

European regulators have always been concerned about Facebook's plans to deepen the integrating of WhatsApp. having previously fined Facebook 110 million euros for failing to tell them about the ability to combine the data when they examined the deal. Instead, he said, its German users must be allowed to opt out of data collecting and processing while still using Facebook's network and services.

The German antitrust regulator's powers were expanded in 2017 to include consumer protection in public-interest cases where it could argue that a company - such as Facebook - had so little competition that consumers lack any effective choice.

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