German competition watchdog demands more control for Facebook users | 2/7/2019 | Staff
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Facebook users should be asked for consent before data collected by the group's subsidiaries Whatsapp and Instagram and on third-party websites is combined with their social network account, Germany's competition authority said Thursday.

Neither should users who refuse permission for their data to be merged be shut out of Facebook services as a result, the Federal Competition Office (FCO) ruled.

Facebook - Users - Collection - Assigning - Data

"In future, Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook user accounts," FCO chief Andreas Mundt said in a statement.

"If users do not consent, Facebook may not exclude them from its services and must refrain from collecting and merging data from different sources."

Officials - Facebook - Mid-2016 - Silicon - Valley

Officials have been looking into Facebook since mid-2016, charging that the Silicon Valley giant uses other networks—like subsidiaries Instagram and Whatsapp, as well as Twitter and other websites—to collect masses of information about users without their knowledge.

That data then provides the foundation for Facebook's advertising profits.

FCO - Requirement - Consent - Data - Facebook

The FCO's requirement for specific consent to merge data with Facebook accounts stopped short of media rumours the authority could ban some of its products, such as the "Like" or "Share" buttons strewn around many third-party websites which aid data collection.

Nor has the Californian giant been ordered to pay a swingeing fine like those imposed by Brussels on rival Google over competition misdeeds.


'Exploitative abuse'

However, the FCO found that Facebook has a "dominant" position in social networking in Germany, with its 23 million daily active users representing 95 percent of the market—meaning there is no viable alternative service for most people.

Services - Snapchat - YouTube - Twitter - Offer

Rival services like Snapchat, YouTube or Twitter "only offer parts of the services of a social network" and are not directly comparable, the authority said.

That meant that a one-off choice between accepting all kinds of data collection and not...
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