back to article Autsch! Germany slaps Facebook in its abusive little face for 'limitlessly amassing data'

Germany's competition authority has accused Facebook of abusing its market dominance to "limitlessly amass every kind of data" on people. The Bundeskartellamt informed the American social media giant on Tuesday of its "preliminary legal assessment" that by forcing third-party websites and apps – including WhatsApp, Instagram …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. malle-herbert Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: a summary of all possible ways to stop information being collected...

      Don't let it connect to the Internet... ever...

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. vir

          Re: a summary of all possible ways to stop information being collected...

          Not only cloud storage of data, but also the rampant and unnecessary proliferation of user profiles and accounts required to use products and services. I have an old (2009) Logitech Harmony remote that I needed to reprogram a few months ago. Instead of being able to download and anonymously use their utility to program the remote like you used to be able to do, they force you to create an account (email address you'll get spammed at, password you'll forget and will probably be found in an unsecured database later) and then tell them exactly what A/V equipment you have running in your home. And for what? So that you can enjoy the "convenience" of being able to log in from anywhere in the world and reprogram your remote? At least have an option to use your products anonymously.

          1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

            Re: a summary of all possible ways to stop information being collected...

            Instead of being able to download and anonymously use their utility to program the remote like you used to be able to do, they force you to create an account (email address you'll get spammed at, password you'll forget and will probably be found in an unsecured database later) and then tell them exactly what A/V equipment you have running in your home.

            Garmin do this too, I have an Edge 500 that needed a firmware update and I was not happy giving them my life history. The solution was tedious.

            1) back up all my ride data locally using their old offline Training Centre software. 2) delete all data from the device 3) from within a new VM instance set up an online account. 4) Connect my device (at which point without the option Garmin suck all they can out of it). 5) update the device. 6) delete some data from the online account I'd missed in clearing it out 7) delete the account 8) delete the VM.

            1. Lusty Silver badge

              Re: a summary of all possible ways to stop information being collected...

              Both of you should give up reading el Reg, you're just not technical enough!

              Yes, by default Garmin explain how to use their excellent web service to get the most out of the device. It's the easiest thing to do and the thing that 99% of normal users are looking to do.

              No, you don't need an account and you don't need to upload data. As I said, you're free to copy files from the device manually. It doesn't copy the files to local disk for you because there's no point and most people don't want their drives filling up with files they don't need. You are free to do so though they are in the /Garmin/Activities folder, and the .fit format is industry standard and works with most software and services. Similarly to update you can download firmward free from the web and drop it into one of the folders on the device. That's all the software does anyway! No virtual machines needed, no account cleanup needed.

              I realise you want to look like smart paranoid techies beating the system but even a small amount of research would have delivered these answers so as it is you look like failed techies trying to be clever "the system" in this instance doesn't exist.

        2. Lusty Silver badge

          Re: a summary of all possible ways to stop information being collected...

          "the application will not download locally"

          Actually all Garmin devices like the FR30 act as USB storage precisely so you can upload fit files without Connect. You're then free to use the data as you wish in any app or cloud service or you can write your own using their SDK. This is not a case of data slurping at all. Polar on the other hand stopped allowing local file copy years ago and are starting to turn off older cloud services so as to make older devices stop working.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

          Re: a summary of all possible ways to stop information being collected...

          > and cannot download unless you have their online account.

          Chances are one's life will continue without such a device, and possibly be happier.

          To misquote Spock, the good of the many is outweighed by the good of the corporate.

      2. dkerago

        Re: a summary of all possible ways to stop information being collected...

        Ok Admiral Adama.

    2. ibchristian

      Re: Everyone Is At It

      REALLY? Well then, allow me to be perhaps not the first but certainly not the last to welcome you to "The New World Order" as it were... perhaps a lower-tech Garmin product like a Garmin Rino 120 may be more suitable... just a suggestion from an old guy...

  2. whitepines Silver badge
    Pint

    Excellent news! I'd like to give one of these to the Bundeskartellamt in light of their very common sense decision (a good German brew, of course, not a nasty one from old Blighty) -->

    There's another one to be had if Munich's use of Windows 10 can be analyzed from a similar common-sense point of view...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm so glad we're leaving the EU, what with their annoying protection of privacy and human rights.

      Looking forward to Sell Out UK.

      I'm getting a extra room, just for all the tubs of Vaseline we're going to need.

      1. Spacedinvader
        Thumb Up

        Sell Out UK

        I like it. SOUK. Same as SLURP.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm so glad we're leaving the EU, what with their annoying protection of privacy and human rights.

        Errr... so far they haven't protected your privacy much, have they? Governments, intel agencies and the plods do what they like, and this latest case is just an initial investigation - the EU and Germany authorities are investigating after the event, with no guarantee of action. Moreover, Germany data protection penalties are as a rule smaller than those that the UK ICO can impose, so they'll be waiting on GDPR as well.

        And one other thing, do you REALLY, HONESTLY think that post GDPR the EU are going to be effective against FB and Google? Not only will the US government use leverage to protect these corporations (and there's plenty, like the EU's reliance on NATO rather than building its own defences), but the reality is that the EU aren't going to kick off a trade war with the Yanks, who buy about 20% of EU exports, and with whom the EU have a €120bn annual trade surplus. If the EU started trashing the business models of US tech corporations, immediately after the US have agreed some tax deal to repatriate foreign profits, you think that the big orange is going to sit by and watch?

  3. lukewarmdog

    Anyday now Germany is going to come up with a verb for "to be facebooked" and then we'll start to get to the crux of the matter.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Yes, but it will probably have something like 47 characters (at least 2 with an umlaut), and no one will be able to say it without taking a breath somewhere in the middle of it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Anyday now Germany is going to come up with a verb for "to be facebooked" and then we'll start to get to the crux of the matter.

      Maulheften.

  4. Adam 52 Silver badge

    This article seems to be mixing two things; Facebook's abuse of it's monopoly and it's blatant disregard of EU data protection law by hoovering up data without consent.

    Is this the competition authority getting involved because the Irish data protection officer is failing to act, again?

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Adam 52

      "This article seems to be mixing two things; Facebook's abuse of it's monopoly and it's blatant disregard of EU data protection law by hoovering up data without consent."

      Because the German watchdog is talking about both? That's why both issues are present in the story.

      C.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'Irish data protection officer is failing to act, again'

      Top o' the mornin to ya:

      http://c0.thejournal.ie/media/2014/05/irish_data_protection_comissioner-390x285.png

      ----

      http://www.thejournal.ie/data-protection-commissioner-new-office-1488473-May2014/

      https://qz.com/162791/how-a-bureaucrat-in-a-struggling-country-at-the-edge-of-europe-found-himself-safeguarding-the-worlds-data/

      https://qz.com/993995/how-facebooks-fb-sheryl-sandberg-personally-lobbied-irish-prime-minister-enda-kenny-as-shown-by-2014-emails-published-in-the-irish-independent/

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      This is exactly the angle here

      It is a very scary angle for the current Valley Business model.

      So far authorities have looked at data slurping alone where they are pre-GDPR practically toothless. They have looked at competition aspects from market access, bundling, pricing, etc perspective. There, they have some teeth - up 10% of global turnover.

      They have not looked at data as a monopoly tool. This is probably the first and if it picks up it will get very interesting - 10% of global turnover does hurt. It is not like the DPA fines which plenty of companies pay as "cost of doing business".;

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: This is exactly the angle here

        Where do you get 10% from?

        Realistically Facebook and Google aren't going to get big fines. They'll wriggle for a bit, delay the process for a few years and then slightly change what they're doing when it gets to the "change or else" stage and then the cycle will repeat every five years.

        1. uncle sjohie

          Re: This is exactly the angle here

          Since Alphabet is located in the Netherlands, and Facebook in Ireland, both fall under the juristiction/laws of the EU. And most of their profits outside of the USA are within those two companies, 10% (max EU fine at the moment) of that is serious money, we're talking ten of billions of turnover annually.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is exactly the angle here

            Since Alphabet is located in the Netherlands, and Facebook in Ireland,

            The 10% global applies even if they were not. You can ask Microsoft and Intel how does it feel having a fine of that size inserted without Vaseline. While Microsoft has a sizeable Irish operation, Intel was fined without residing in Eu.

  5. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Terminator

    Last weekend at a BBQ and talking, the subject turned to facepalm and other social media sites. Couple of teenagers there. Told them all if the service you are using is free you're the product that's being sold.

    Of course the responses I got were basically dumb old guy what do you know about social media. not just from the teenagers either.

    <sigh> object lesson time.

    Borrowed the hosts laptop and spent 5 minutes searching on one of them. <creepy old guy alert>

    I then started rattling off information about them and what they had been up to over the past couple of weeks, all publicly available. I was even surprised by the extent of the information I could glean in that 5 minutes or so.

    The objects lesson's mother was also quite surprised too, to learn that said lesson was at a party rather than studying at a friends place. Well they were in a photo holding a bottle of cider

    Whoopsy

    Object lesson over. Grumpy old guy indeed, but at least I haven't sold my soul to the latest craze.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Like the time I "hacked" into a friends daughters bank account (with their consent).

      Date of Birth - Look up last birthday photos, worked out from there,

      Mother Maiden name - Easy, they had anniversary photos and from their, found Mr X married Miss Y on this day, type posts,

      Town of Birth. - Right there.

      Couldn't find first pet,

      Found high school,home address, interests, movies, books and on and on.

      1. PhilipN Silver badge

        So what else is new?

        Mate of mine who is neither US citizen nor resident was stopped for speeding near Atlanta Georgia. He was a regular business visitor to the US and at that time owned a house there.

        The cop entered his (non-US) ID data into the terminal IN HIS CAR and it spewed out my mate’s life history.

        All you can say is - SHEE-IT!!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It is thus.

      That bank did their best by running a TV ad showing how identity thieves operate. It went straight over the millennials' heads; they still carry on posting every belch and tweeting every fart. However, there's a lot more people who saw the ad and now know how to thieve identities.

      (Incidentally, I can remember the ad in its entirety, but I can't remember which bank it was. That's how effective advertising is.)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fines should be extended to...

    Fining advertisers that use Facebook's Ad network. That might concentrate some business minds and dent the 10 billion every quarter magic number...

  7. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Facebook et al

    Just don't.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Facebook et al

      Just don't

      The problem is that Facebook could likely have some sort of shadow profile for you even if you did not explicitly create one - based, for example, on all those pages you visited with a "like" button or pictures on Facebook where you've been tagged by idiot acquaintances. Opting out entirely is a nice idea, but I suspect you just can't.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: Facebook et al

        There are no "like" buttons etc on the pages I view because I use protection.

        Granted, it gets harder to avoid stuff like that all the time.

        1. Pseu Donyme

          Re: Facebook et al

          > ... because I use protection.

          Good for you (so do I). However, not everyone does, knows about it or even why it should be used. And, actually, there should be no need, instead collecting, using and transferring personal data (i.e. any data about a person) should be all opt-in (which is pretty much the idea of data protection in a nutshell), such that there is prior, explicit, retractable consent, freely given (i.e. consent is actively given, the default is 'no consent'; consent can't be required to use a product or service).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Facebook et al

        The problem is that Facebook could likely have some sort of shadow profile for you even if you did not explicitly create one

        Could? I think you'll find out they did that long ago. And Google too. I don't use social media in any conventional manner, don't have a FB account, nor any other socialmeeja service. But I routinely see my wife's FB pictures getting drawn to my attention by Google (I do have a Google account, but don't use Google+ or similar), and over her shoulder I see FB automatically tagging my grizzled features in pictures she posts. So not only are they sharing data, but both are hoovering up all the third party data they can and linking that to names. Just because you and I haven't knowingly volunteered our data, I'll wager that both companies have vast troves of snatched data on both of us. If you can be arsed you could try a subject data access request, and see if they fess up anything?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Facebook et al

        The problem is that Facebook could likely have some sort of shadow profile for you even if you did not explicitly create one.

        Not could. It has. Without anyone granting it consent to have one. All it takes is for ONE person to tag a photo with your name and the rest as they say is history.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If they are breaking the Law

    then surely "abuse of market dominance" is a secondary consideration ?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: If they are breaking the Law

      When breaking the law is a paltry 1M fine and the secondary consideration is 10% of global turnover you end up observing what is usually referred to as: "Tail happily wagging the dog".

    2. Kevin Johnston

      Re: If they are breaking the Law

      The 'Abuse of market dominance' is a simpler hook to hang the investigation on. Once you start unwrapping the FUD you may find the activity is in breach of laws or you may find that it just keeps within the lines. If you do it the other way round then as soon as you see the law isn't being broken the investigation stops.

      Bit like the TV Referee/Umpire....it is all down to how you ask the question as to how much they check

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just shut the lot of them down after emptying their bank accounts.

    There was a world before all this anti-social media crap and when it has run its course there will be a world left (Trump's tweets might cause a revision of that especially w.r.t. North Korea, Mexico and now Canada)

    Feeling a bit angry today as I was supposed to be at a party last night where I was going to be the guest of honour due to my pending retirement. It was announced only on Facaebook which I don't use. No one thought to use the old 'dog and bone' or email or even snailmail to let me know where and when.

    It was only when I got a call asking if I had been caught in traffic that I was aware of the event. As it was 60 miles away and as I'd already driven 400 miles down from Scotland, I said sorry.

    Apparently there is a lot of anger towards me on social media for not turning up. This is only what I've been told by people phoning me. The last call was at 01:34 this morning.

    The rub is that all the people who called me knew that I don't use social media.

    Get rid of the lot and the world will be a better place.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's your party

      and you'll rant if you want to!

      You would rant too if it happened to you!

  10. Louis Schreurs BEng

    Since

    the wolves (or your local predator) aren't around anymore to bite your ass or worse if you go out in an insecure environment, people are unaware or in denial about dangers lurking about.

  11. MachDiamond Silver badge

    FB business IS big data

    FB makes its money by collecting and selling personal data. That's why they exist. The more data they have on somebody, the more they can sell it for. Yes, they make money on ads, but their stock in trade is personal data sales.

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