THE SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook has been dealt a blow by German's antitrust watchdog which on Thursday set limits on the amount of data the firm can collect.
Following a three-year probe into the company, Germany's Bundeskartellamt, or Federal Cartel Office, ruled that Facebook can no longer combine user data from different sources without voluntary consent.
The order applies to data collected by Facebook-owned platforms such as WhatsApp and Instagram, but also third-party sources - such as websites with an embedded Facebook 'like' or share button - which Zuck and co use to track people who aren't even signed up to the social network.
"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," Cartel chief Andreas Mundt said in a statement.
"If users do not consent, Facebook may not exclude them from its services and must refrain from collecting and merging data from different sources."
The Cartel's probe, which follows a number of high-profile privacy screw-ups at Facebook, concluded that the firm has a "dominant" position in social networking in Germany, with its 23 million daily active users representing 95 per cent of the market; this means that "Facebook's conduct represents above all a so-called exploitative abuse," the authority said.
"The only choice the user has is either to accept the comprehensive combination of data or to refrain from using the social network," Mundt added. "In such a difficult situation the user's choice cannot be referred to as voluntary consent."
Facebook, which has been given 12 months to comply with the landmark order, unsurprisingly said it would appeal the ruling that cracks down on its heavy-handed approach to data collection.
"The Bundeskartellamt's decision misapplies German competition law to set different rules that apply to only one company," the California firm said, adding that "we face fierce competition in Germany" from the likes of YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter.
Despite such regulatory action, Facebook last month revealed that it's planning to merge its platforms closer together by combining Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp into a single messaging powerhouse. µ
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