February 21, 2019

Germany Says Facebook Cannot Combine Data From WhatsApp, Instagram

10 February 2019, 05:57 | Joann Bryant

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Germany clamps down on Facebook’s data tracking

Facebook has been in the news for its approach to user privacy. The FCO states that Facebook's "terms of service and the manner and extent to which it collects and uses data are in violation of the European data protection rules". "Voluntary consent" means that access to the service can not be limited to users who consent: if users do not consent, Facebook may not exclude them from its services but will have to substantially restrict its collection and combining of data from different sources.

"Voluntary consent means that the use of Facebook's services must not be subject to the users' consent to their data being collected and combined in this way", said Bundeskartellamt President Andreas Mundt.

This also comes amid reports that Facebook's looking to merge the messaging functionalities of Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, which would further lend itself to this exact type of data sharing. This can hardly come as a surprise given that the GDPR imposes one of the highest, if not the highest, data protection standards in the world.

Data can only be assigned to Facebook from WhatsApp and Instagram with the user's voluntary consent, the Bundeskartellamt said in a press release.

The German regulator also noted that the merger of user data from all sorts of sources is what has allowed Facebook to consolidate its market position.

Facebook has over 95pc of market share of daily active users of social media in Germany, and over 80pc of monthly active users, the authority's research found during a two-year probe into its activity.

"We face fierce competition in Germany, yet the Bundeskartellamt finds it irrelevant that our apps compete directly with YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and others", Facebook said in its statement.

There are also worries that Facebook could build deeper profiles, such as by linking phone numbers to real-life identities, he added.

That includes tracking visitors to websites with an embedded Facebook "like" or share button - and pages where it observes people even though there is no obvious sign the social network is present. For example, Standard Oil had roughly 64 per cent market share in 1911 before it was broken up by the USA government for being a monopoly. In addition to inviting community group leaders to the summit, Facebook for the first time this year also invited leaders of local business and nonprofit groups. In fact, the company says, it's keeping everyone safe from stuff like terrorism and child abuse.

The 10-Year Challenge and other social games and memes put people's cybersecurity at risk, their information can potentially be used against them anywhere, anytime.

"The GDPR specifically empowers data protection regulators - not competition authorities - to determine whether companies have lived up to their responsibilities", it said. And, Facebook says that the competition agency shouldn't have jurisdiction over this matter.

If Facebook fails to comply, the cartel office said it could impose fines of up to 10 percent of the company's annual global revenues, which grew by 37 percent to $55.8 billion past year. The story broke wide open in March of 2018 when it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica had used Facebook data to target Americans and help swing the 2016 presidential election for President Donald Trump. Online privacy is a grave concern in Germany as they lead the global charge against Facebook.

The social networking giant has a month to appeal the Bundeskartellamt's ruling.

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