Facebook is facing yet another privacy dispute, this time in Germany. The social media platform’s contentious data gathering practices have drawn the ire of much of the European continent for quite some time now, and on Wednesday, the German Federal Cartel Office (the Bundeskartellamt) announced the launch of its own investigation into the company. Reuters reports that the Cartel Office “is investigating Facebook for suspected abuse of market power over breaches of data protection laws,” and the probe marks the first Facebook has faced when it comes to violation of competition rules.
Specifically, the Internet giant is being accused of employing illegal terms and conditions when it comes to its collection and use of user data. And because these terms and conditions are not only difficult to understand, but must be agreed upon in order for individuals to log onto and use Facebook, they might be considered “an abuse of a dominant market position.”
“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,” the German Cartel Office wrote in its formal announcement of the investigation.
In a statement regarding the probe, Bundeskartellamt president Andreas Mundt added, “Dominant companies are subject to special obligations. These include the use of adequate terms of service as far as these are relevant to the market. For advertising-financed Internet services such as Facebook, user data are hugely important. For this reason it is essential to also examine under the aspect of abuse of market power whether the consumers are sufficiently informed about the type and extent of data collected.”
Facebook is no stranger to controversy when it comes to privacy laws in Europe, and said in a statement, “We are confident that we comply with the law and we look forward to working with the Federal Cartel Office to answer their questions.”