Facebook certainly dominates social media, but is it abusing its market position?
Point of view
"We want to know whether users who are supplying their data are adequately informed about how their data is being used, what for and to what extent"
Germany’s competition regulator believes it may be. It is investigating possible breaches of data protection laws, specifically whether because of Facebook’s dominance, users are forced to agree to terms allowing the use of their personal data:
The head of the Federal Cartel Office Andreas Mundt said: “Facebook users are supplying their data to Facebook which then uses it for advertising financed purposes. As part of a suspected abuse of market power investigation. We want to know whether users who are supplying their data are adequately informed about how their data is being used, what for and to what extent.”
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg – who was recently in Germany responding to criticism of its privacy practices and slow response to anti-immigrant postings by neo-Nazi sympathisers – now has to mount a defence against accusations users may not understand the terms and conditions under which they allow access to their personal data.
A Facebook spokeswoman said: “We are confident that we comply with the law and we look forward to working with the Federal Cartel Office to answer their questions.”
The cartel office said it was coordinating its probe with the European Commission, competition authorities in other European Union states, data protection authorities in Germany and consumer rights groups.
Germany investigates misuse of dominant market position, as it forces people to accept outrageous “data use terms”… VERY interesting!— Max Schrems (@maxschrems) 2 March 2016
Facebook owns four of the top eight social network services globally including its core profile service, two separate instant messaging services, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and its photo and video-sharing social network service Instagram.
The EU has accused Facebook rival Google of favouring its own shopping services in search results at the expense of rivals, and is weighing possible sanctions against the world’s most popular search engine.