Germany’s national competition regulator, the Federal Cartel Office (FCO), has ordered Facebook to stop combining user data from its apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as third-party apps, without voluntary consent from users, reports Reuters. The FCO’s orders come after a three-year investigation into the company’s data collection practices.
The FCO took issue with how Facebook combines data it receives about people who use third-party apps and how it tracks people around the web via its like and share buttons on websites–particularly as some of the people it tracks do not have Facebook accounts.
“In [the] 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 accounts,” FCO chief Andreas Mundt said, announcing the order. It’s important to note, however, that Facebook has one month to appeal the FCO’s ruling–which the company has said it will do. In a blog post, Facebook’s head of data protection, Yvonne Cunnane, and its associate general counsel, Nikhil Shanbhag, wrote:
Today, Germany’s Bundeskartellamt (FCO) issued an order in the inquiry it began in March 2016. While we’ve cooperated with the Bundeskartellamt for nearly three years and will continue our discussions, we disagree with their conclusions and intend to appeal so that people in Germany continue to benefit fully from all our services. The Bundeskartellamt underestimates the fierce competition we face in Germany, misinterprets our compliance with GDPR and undermines the mechanisms European law provides for ensuring consistent data protection standards across the EU.
If Facebook’s appeal is unsuccessful, the company will only have four months to ensure that data gleaned from third-party sources, including WhatsApp and Instagram, are no longer combined with other user data without that user’s explicit consent.