Germany cracks down on Facebook

Germany’s antitrust regulators have blocked the social media platform, Facebook from pooling data from its platform and other third-party websites without user consent.

Background

In March 2017, Cambridge Analytica, a data mining and analysis firm was found associated with the Trump campaign and was accused of a Facebook data breach. Cambridge Analytica used personal data acquired from a number of sources, including Facebook, to create micro-targeting advertisements designed to influence opinions. In an exposé by UK’s Channel News 4, it was revealed that revealed that Cambridge Analytica has been involved in some political campaigns across the world.

Analysis

Germany’s antitrust watchdog, called the Bundeskartellamt, has ordered a crackdown on Facebook on its data collection practices. It was reported that the social media platform pooled data of its user on its platform and other third-party websites without any user consent. Facebook, thus, abused its market dominance to gather information.

The regulator's decision comes after a three-year investigation into the social media company. Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt, said in a press brief: "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.”

Andreas Mundt also said that the social media giant combined data from its own website and other company-owned services to obtain “very detailed profiles of its users”, it also “knows what they are doing online.”

The ruling does not have any legal force on the platform, but it has one month to appeal. In a blog post, Facebook said: “We disagree with their conclusions and intend to appeal so that people in Germany continue to benefit fully from all our services.”

Facebook also said that it had rebuilt the information it provides people concerning privacy and the controls they have over their information. It would also soon launch a ‘clear history’ feature.

Assessment

Our assessment is that this directive  by the regulatory authority is indeed a landmark decision on internet privacy rights. We believe that all measures must be taken to restrict these social media platforms from breaching and acquiring information without consent. We believe that if these acts continue, privacy rights can be protected.