Authorities in Germany have ruled that Facebook should not be allowed to use customer data from other apps and websites to help target advertisements shown on their Facebook pages without their explicit consent.
In the latest high-profile backlash against the social network, German officials argue that Facebook has been exploiting its dominant position in social media.
The Federal Cartel Office, or Bundeskartellamt, said Facebook was guilty of “exploitative abuse” by forcing users to agree to allow it to collect data from other Facebook-owned services like WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as third-party websites through the “Like” or “Share” features.
If the ruling is upheld, Facebook will be required to allow users to specifically approve data collected from other Facebook-owned sources and third-party websites assigned to their accounts. The decision is not about Facebook’s processing of data generated by its own site, which the Cartel Office acknowledged is the business model for data-based social networks like Facebook.
“In the future, Facebook will no longer be forced to force its users to agree to virtually limitless collection and assignment of non-Facebook data to their user account,” said Andreas Mundt, president of the Federal Cartel Office, in a statement. “The combination of data sources has contributed significantly to Facebook creating such a unique aggregate of data on each individual user and its market power could reach.”
In a statement, Facebook said that it disagrees with the Bundeskartellamt and will appeal its ruling “so that people in Germany continue to benefit fully from all our services.”
According to the tech giant, the Federal Cartel Office has misunderstood Facebook’s compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy law, which went into effect last year.
“The Bundeskartellamt underestimates the fierce competition we face in Germany, misinterprets our compliance with GDPR and undermines the mechanisms European law provides for ensuring consistent data protection standards across the EU,” Facebook added, in its statement.
Set against this backdrop, the social network is facing a storm of criticism. Last month, for example, the social network was accused by EU officials of taking a “patchy, opaque and self-selecting” approach to tackling misinformation on its platform.
The Associated Press and Fox News’ Christopher Carbone and Chris Ciaccia contributed to this article.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers
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