Germany has ordered Facebook to curb its data collection practices in the country, after a ruling that the world's largest social media network abused its market dominance to gather information about users without their knowledge or consent. Mundt announced the anti-trust watchdog's findings in Bonn, Germany, Thursday.
"In [the] 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 accounts", FCO chief Andreas Mundt said, announcing the order.
"In the authority's assessment, Facebook's conduct represents above all a so-called exploitative abuse", said the Bundeskartellamt, or Federal Cartel Office.
Andreas Mundt, president of Germany's Federal Cartel Office addresses a news conference presenting findings of the anti-trust watchdog's investigation into Facebook's data collection practices in Bonn, Germany, February 7, 2019.
The office said many users were not aware that Facebook is able to "collect an nearly unlimited amount of any type of user data from third-party sources".
The use of "voluntary" here is important because it means Facebook can't try to coerce users into agreeing to the data merger. It adds that the integration of Facebook interfaces also allows the company to track people's online behavior, "even if they are not logged into or registered with Facebook".
The watchdog has carried out a probe into the social network following concerns that members were unaware of the extent of the firm's activities. And it was done, Mundt said, without users providing their voluntary and affirmative consent.
Facebook has an estimated 23 million daily active users in Germany, giving it a market share of 95 percent, according to the Cartel Office, which considers Google+ - a rival social network that is being closed down - to be its only competitor.
In January, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg defended his company in the worldwide media, saying its advertising-based business model required collecting personal data. In the case of Facebook they are the essential factor for establishing the company's dominant position.
Facebook said German authorities underestimated the competition Facebook has in Germany from YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and others.
Facebook claims the Federal Cartel Office has overstepped the mark by pursuing a data privacy matter that Facebook says falls under the remit of another regulator. It's also calling on Facebook to change its terms of service, calling them overly broad and inappropriate.
The FCO has said that the different platforms can continue to collect data, but this will need to be kept separate from other services unless the user gives their permission.
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. Already, businesses can already target Facebook and Instagram users together with the same ad campaign, and ads are likely coming to WhatsApp eventually.
The U.S. tech giant has one month to lodge an appeal with the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court.