Germany Is Investigating Facebook’s Collection of Private Data, Says Report

Left: (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images) Right: (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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Germany is evaluating whether it thinks Facebook exploits its popularity by essentially forcing users to agree to its contractual guidelines, according to a Bloomberg report published Monday.

The country’s Federal Cartel Office thinks its quite possible the social media company may be collecting people’s private data due to stipulations written in the fine print of its terms and conditions, even though many people presumably don’t read the rules. It alleges that people will agree to the contract without doing their due diligence because being part of the social network is considered critical. User data is highly valuable for Facebook because the information on personal tendencies, preferences, and interests help create expensive targeted advertisements.

“Whoever doesn’t agree to the data use, gets locked out of the social network community,” Frederik Wiemer, a lawyer in Hamburg, told Bloomberg. “The fear of social isolation is exploited to get access to the complete surfing activities of users.”

Germany reportedly equating extortion to voluntary involvement in an online service is yet another example of the country, or a European governing body in general, threatening or conducting oversight of a tech company.

The country passed a highly challenged law in late June permitting the state to levy steep fines if the social media firm fails to remove “obviously illegal” content — like hate speech, defamation, and calls for violence — within a 24 hour timeframe. (RELATED: Germany To Consider Fining Facebook If It Doesn’t Purge Fake News)

Facebook denounced the German law when it was proposed, asserting that it will unduly cause systemic censorship.

The European Union’s antitrust branch demanded Apple pay 13 billion euros (roughly $14.9 billion) in taxes last year. The same regulatory arm slapped a record $2.71 billion fine on Google in the end of June for allegedly favoring some of its price-comparison search results over those of its rivals. (RELATED: EU May Demand That US Tech Companies Surrender Personal Data)

The latest reported considerations from Germany, though, may be even more consequential than the E.U.’s fine of Google because it conflates antitrust, or business, concerns with privacy matters.

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