Germany sets new limits on Facebook data collection

Facebook could be ordered to update its terms of use in Germany or even see some of its functions banned

Facebook banned in Germany from pooling user data without consent

Facebook said it would appeal against the landmark ruling by the Federal Cartel Office, the culmination of a three-year probe, saying the antitrust watchdog underestimated the competition it faced and undermined Europe-wide privacy rules that took effect last year.

Collecting data from third party websites and assigning them to a Facebook user account will also only be possible if users give their voluntary consent. The Federal Cartel Office said Facebook will need each user to sign off on linking their Facebook accounts with Instagram and WhatsApp data or keep the data separate.

Germany will impose new rules on Facebook concerning the company's data collection and use.

In the wake of a security breach that affected roughly 50 million Facebook accounts late past year, European regulators reportedly threatened the company with over $1 billion in fines.

On the other hand, this ruling is not yet legally binding; Facebook has up to a month from now to appeal the decision.

Facebook has come under fire for playing fast and loose with the mountains of data that it has collected on users over the years. It would have to significantly reduce data collection and develop a system that revolves around voluntary consent. The FCO also said Facebook is responsible for an "exploitative abuse" of its market power.

After beginning their investigation in 2016, FCO identified Facebook's combination of data from Instagram, WhatsApp and other third-party services to build user profiles as a virtual monopoly that gains the company more market power.

Brussels-based anti-trust lawyer Thomas Vinje of Clifford Chance said the decision had potentially far-reaching implications.

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Facebook also argued that "popularity is not dominance" and the platform still faces "fierce" competition from "YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter".

"This is the point we'll continue to make to the Bundeskartellamt and defend these important arguments in court, so that people and businesses in Germany can continue to benefit from all of our services", wrote Facebook.

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.

Germany's competition watchdog is set to rule Thursday on whether Facebook abused its dominant position in social media to collect excessive data and could even ban the site's "Like" buttons from other webpages.

As part of complying with the GDPR, Facebook said it had rebuilt the information its provides people about their privacy and the controls they have over their information, and improved the privacy "choices" that they are offered.

Although it is now common knowledge platforms such as Facebook sell "you" to advertisers to fuel the spreadsheets, Bundeskartellamt believes the firm should obtain consent from the user should it want to use additional information to create a more detailed user profile.

If Facebook's appeal is unsuccessful, the company will only have four months to ensure that data gleaned from third-party sources, including WhatsApp and Instagram, are no longer combined with other user data without that user's explicit consent.

Sandra Wachter, a lawyer and Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, earlier said (to WIRED) that Facebook's plan to merge the platforms is bound to trigger privacy concerns.

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