Germany's competition regulator has told Facebook to substantially restrict how it collects and combines data about its users unless they give it explicit consent.
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. It covered data gathered from third-party sources as well as via Facebook's other apps, including Instagram. The US firm has said it will appeal. Specifically, the FCO has ruled that:
The watchdog added that an "obligatory tick on the box" to agree to all the company's terms was not a sufficient basis for "such intensive data processing". The ruling only applies to the firm's activities in Germany, but is likely to influence other regulators. 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 has one month to challenge the ruling before it becomes legally effective. If the order is upheld, the company must develop technical solutions to ensure it complies within four months. If it refused to do so, it could in theory be fined up to 10% of its annual revenues.
- Facebook's various services - including WhatsApp and Instagram - can continue to collect data, but they cannot combine the information with a user's main Facebook account unless the member gives their voluntary consent
- collecting data from third-party websites and assigning it to a Facebook user's account is likewise only allowed if that member has given the firm permission