Social media platform Facebook has been asked by competition regulator in Germany to restrict its data collection methods of users and collating the data unless explicit consent for carrying out such activities is received from these users. It carried out a detailed probe into the activities of the social media giant following reports that users were ignorant of the extent of private information that was being gathered by it. It collected information about third parties on Facebook that collected user information through its app and also photo sharing platform Instagram. Facebook has said that it will appeal against the order.
Specific details of the FCO ruling is that Facebook can continue to collect data from its varied platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook platform, it cannot collate this information to build user profiles unless explicit consent to do so has been given by the user. Similarly data from third party websites cannot be combined with the users’ Facebook accounts unless that particular user has given clear consent to do so.
The agency has said that just a tick box asking users to agree to company norms was not enough for the kind of extensive data collection and analysis which was being carried out by Facebook and its associated companies. Though the ruling is limited to the firm’s activities in Germany it is also likely to affect other regulators. But Facebook has disputed this ruling claiming that it oversteps the mark as data privacy matters fall under another regulator. It has only a month to challenge the regulation before it becomes legally binding after which Facebook will have to introduce technical solutions to comply within four months. Refusal to comply will lead to fines of around 10 % of Facebook’s annual revenues. This regulation would affect usage of Facebook’s “like and share” buttons that allows it to track user’s IP address and also the name and version of their web browsers.