Facebook faced further censure in Europe as Germany’s competition regulator accused it of abusing its dominant market position and violating the country’s data protection laws.
In a preliminary assessment into the social media company’s business practices in the country, Bundeskartellamt said the company used its position to “limitlessly” collect data on users. This includes information acquired from affiliates including WhatsApp and Instagram, and third party services with embedded Facebook APIs.
Bundeskartellamt’s announcement came hot of the heels of a call by French data protection watchdog CNIL for Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp to amend its terms and conditions, following an investigation into data sharing between the app and the social network.
The German authority is also concerned about the sharing of data, explaining information collected from Facebook affiliates and third-parties was then being merged with information on users’ social network accounts. It also raised concerns consumers had to agree to unrestricted approval of Facebook’s terms of service in order to use the social network.
It added Facebook’s terms were: “inappropriate and violate data protection provisions to the disadvantage of its users. In view of the company’s dominant position, it can also not be assumed that users effectively consent to this form of data collection and processing.”
Bundeskartellamt president Andreas Mundt added: “From the current state of affairs we are not convinced that users have given their effective consent to Facebook’s data tracking and the merging of data into their Facebook account. The extent and form of data collection violate mandatory European data protection principles.”
Germany’s regulator submitted its preliminary findings to Facebook for response: potential sanctions include a ban on the social network in Germany, though the regulator noted it does not expect to make a final decision before mid-2018.