The German antitrust authority has banned Facebook from combining user data across its apps and third-party sites without users’ consent, accusing the company of coercively taking advantage of its “market dominance.”
Competition watchdog Bundeskartellamt blocked the social media giant from merging user data collected through Instagram, WhatsApp and the millions of third-party websites that track users on behalf of Facebook through the “like” and “share” buttons, with those users’ Facebook profiles – unless they explicitly opt in to the tracking.
“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,” said Andreas Mundt, Bundeskartellamt’s president, in a press release on Thursday.
The extent to which Facebook collects, merges and uses data in user accounts constitutes an abuse of a dominant position.
Citing Facebook’s 95 percent market share of daily active social media users in Germany, Mundt noted that the company “must take into account that Facebook users practically cannot switch to other social networks.”
“The only choice the user has is either to accept the comprehensive combination of data or to refrain from using the social network,” Mundt said, stating that its “market domination was implicitly coercive … In such a difficult situation the user’s choice cannot be referred to as voluntary consent.”'
Read more: Germany orders Facebook to stop spying & hoarding users’ data without their explicit consent