German watchdog: Facebook abused dominant position in data collection

German watchdog: Facebook abused dominant position in data collection
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Germany’s competition watchdog says that Facebook has abused its dominant market position to unfairly collect data on its users.

The country’s Federal Cartel Office said on Tuesday that it is most concerned with the firm's collection of data in its apps outside of Facebook, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, which are then processed within Facebook.

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"We are mostly concerned about the collection of data outside Facebook's social network and the merging of this data into a user's Facebook account,” said Andreas Mundt, the president of Germany’s competition authority. “This even happens when, for example, a user does not press a 'like button' but has called up a site into which such a button is embedded. Users are unaware of this.”

Mundt said that, because of this, the Federal Cartel Office was not convinced that users could give “effective consent” to Facebook in its data collection practices.

The charges come one day after France’s privacy authority slammed Facebook over its data collection practices on its messaging service, WhatsApp. The watchdog threatened to penalize Facebook if it did not take action on the matter.

Facebook on Tuesday fought back against Germany’s claims. The firm challenged the very premise that it is in a dominant position to begin with.

“Although we are popular in Germany, we are not dominant,” Facebook’s head of data protection, Yvonne Cunnane, said in a blog post, according to a Reuters translation.

“A dominant company operates in a world where customers don’t have alternatives,” she continued noting that consumers have other messaging app options in Germany.