Germany probe Facebook over user terms

Another clash between a country and a big tech company ...

Germany probe Facebook over user terms

Picture by: Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire/Press Association Images

Germany’s federal competition authority has launched an investigation into Facebook’s privacy terms for users. It is linking the social networking giant to an alleged “abusive imposition of unfair terms” in what is the company’s first-ever competition probe.

While likely to prompt yet another debate on digital privacy, the Bundeskartellamt is primarily looking at potential antitrust issues. As such, the country’s national data protection watchdog is not involved. Fines under antitrust law are also significantly heavier than under privacy law in Germany.

German authorities have questioned Facebook’s terms and conditions when it comes to data and how it relates to advertising to their 1.6 billion monthly users. The Bundeskartellamt has said in a statement:

"It is difficult for users to understand and assess the scope of the agreement accepted by them. There is considerable doubt as to the admissibility of this procedure, in particular under applicable national data protection law. If there is a connection between such an infringement and market dominance, this could also constitute an abusive practice under competition law."

Facebook has responded: "We are confident that we comply with the law and we look forward to working with the Federal Cartel Office to answer their questions."

Having already faced criticism and actions over data protection and privacy, Facebook has forwarded the argument that, as their European operations are based in Dublin, they are only bound by Ireland’s Data Protection Acts.