back to article German competition watchdog tells Facebook to stop combining user data without consent

Germany's competition watchdog has imposed "far-reaching" restrictions on Facebook's data slurping and sharing – a decision that the Social Network unsurprisingly plans to appeal. Batman. Credit: DC Comics. Autsch! Germany slaps Facebook in its abusive little face for 'limitlessly amassing data' READ MORE The …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ""using information across services helps to make them better and protect people's safety""

    Really, better for who? oh yeah, of course.

    Protecting people's safety - let's see the evidence for how "better" advertising has led to keeping people safe?

    At least they didn't say it was for 'combating terrorism' this time like they did when they announced the aim to merge FB, WhatsApp and InstaGag

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      "so that people in Germany continue to benefit fully from all our services".

      I'm looking really hard, but I can't quite see how Facebook collecting reams about my surfing habits, and creepily following me around the internet is going to help me "benefit fully" from their services...

      I'm not sure they're using the word "benefit" correctly there...

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    It's mine, mine, mine!

    Facebook's position is that once they have the data, it's their data, not your data - you have no rights to their data.

    1. Tim99 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: It's mine, mine, mine!

      I'm fairly sure that you have the right to add more of "yours" to "their" data...

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "Facebook's position is that once they have the data, it's their data"

      Unluckily - for them - that doesn't hold under GDPR....

      The GDPR provides the following rights for individuals:

      The right to be informed.

      The right of access.

      The right to rectification.

      The right to erasure.

      The right to restrict processing.

      The right to data portability.

      The right to object.

      Rights in relation to automated decision making and profiling.

      https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/individual-rights/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Facebook's position is that once they have the data, it's their data"

        Oh, it's not just Facebook, Google is at it as well and blatantly so:

        Some of our Services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

        Looks good right? Here's the rub: you actually do NOT retain those rights with respect to controlling the use of your content/IP/copyright, so that acknowledgement is essentially meaningless - see here:

        When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps).

        Copyright issues aside, "Right to be forgotten", anyone? Oh, and if you piss off Google you have given them the right to change any of your emails into the opposite - really, you have. No idea if that means you can't sue them for the consequences if they do so, you did give permission..

        Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.

        .. or, translated: they will access incoming email, or, translated, they will access contents for which they have not given permission. Which is something you permitted by using Gmail. I wonder where that leaves you as a business using Gmail, as far as I can tell you are breaking the law.

        I need to be in Brussels in the next few days anyway, I think I'm going to prod a few people to have that looked at. Ought to be entertaining (evil grin)..

        1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

          Re: "Facebook's position is that once they have the data, it's their data"

          Exactly - this is the way the world works these days - They all say, "We will DEFEND YOUR RIGHTS" ... but they make sure that your rights are always compromised in the small print to generate a few billion in their pockets. I'm starting to suspect that Google, Facebook et al will be all standing together against the wall when the revolution comes.

          1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

            Re: "Facebook's position is that once they have the data, it's their data"

            I'm starting to suspect that Google, Facebook et al will be all standing together against the wall when the revolution comes.

            That would be the wall that Trumps is building then? That's about as likely to happen as Google and Facebook's executive team properly facing the music.

  3. alain williams Silver badge

    Non facebook users

    Where are they left ? They have not signed up thus they have not agreed anything with facebook, so clause 1002.b (written in point size 6) cannot be deemed acceptance of anything.

    The implications of this will be much wider than facebook: any web site, commercial or otherwise, must have restrictions imposed on it as to what it can do with casual visitors. I am OK with them counting how many people looked at garden spades (anonymously), but should they be allowed to keep the IP address (or other info) and later correlate it with that visitor looking at lawn mowers ?

    Under EU law (I think) they should not - look at the cookie directive; unless you agree they cannot set one (in theory).

    I suspect that we will see that the agreement pop-up/... to cookies will now contain much more.

    The cookie has been run around, tracking these days can be done by ways other than cookies - these methods should also be regulated, using language that covers intent rather than enumerating specific technologies (with would then be run around).

    1. Remy Redert

      Re: Non facebook users

      They have some valid uses for keeping hold of IP addresses, at least for a while, in terms of abuse prevention. But using them for marketing purposes would require explicit informed consent, lack of which should not prevent people from using the website.

      As for the Cookie directive, they must inform you that they are using cookies. Consent is only required for cookies that are not required for basic functionality. So a cookie to track your activity in order to keep you logged in or in order to keep a shopping basket or some preferences does not require consent. A cookie to track you for marketing purposes does.

      GDPR is the answer to your final paragraph. It works on the basis of very broadly specified private information and doesn't care how that information is collected, only if it is and under what legal basis.

  4. Herring`

    I like it when websites try to tell you that "targeted advertising" is a benefit for users.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Joke

      > I like it when websites try to tell you that "targeted advertising" is a benefit for users.

      But it is! Think about it. If you buy something innocuous, say a screwdriver, then you get endless ads for tools. But if you don't buy a screwdriver then you get endless ads for PPI, "A Surrey Woman Discovered This Neat Trick That Untidy People Refuse To Use" etc - endless, endless crap. Don't fight it. You know it makes sense.

  5. werdsmith Silver badge

    I worked briefly for a company that did this kind of data mining back over 10 years ago and what they could do then blew my mind. I shudder to think how it has developed since.

    Contribute to a better world by closing your Faecebook account.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Contribute to a better world by closing your Faecebook account.

      Leaving only Google, Microsoft, Amazon and many others to address.

      And if that were ever achieved, we'd still have the dark and poorly regulated world of financial and credit data controlled by companies like Experian. I had a meeting the other day with our credit control team and you'd be proud of their technology and evidence led approach. But you might be less impressed how your bank and every company you do business with pimp your data amongst themselves. When you agree to a credit check, all companies involved take that as a rolling authority to share anything they want. So if you accidentally were late with a single payment on your broadband (or stopped a disputed payment) that will be passed through to your energy supplier, your mobile network, your water company, your credit car company, your mortgage lender, car PCP financier etc. Even unfamiliar purchase patterns can be shared "because they're a pre-default indicator". The slightest hiccup, and your name goes up a notch on the credit risk dashboard of everybody subscribing to the credit reference agencies. You may be offered fewer and less favourable deals for add ons, they may become a lot less tolerant of payment delays - and ALL OF THAT sharing is amongst businesses you're already doing business with, and without you trying to buy anything new that might require a credit check. If you've got the slightest hint of risk, many companies supplying credit based services won't touch you, or they'll offer very unfavourable terms. And should you apply for a credit based service and be declined, they'll share that fact amongst themselves, and that puts you even further up the credit risk ratings.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        OK, do absolutely nothing then.

        I have made a start, got rid of Faecebook. I am working on more.

        If enough people did it they would get the message.

        But unfortunately there's always an excuse.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes, that reminds me that that is another one to start tackling.

        Thanks to Equifax, there is now no excuse for not knowing the enormous risk every user is exposed to, so there is thus also no excuse for not imposing controls on this circus. And no bailout here - get it right.

    2. Oengus Silver badge

      Contribute to a better world by closing your Faecebook account.

      OK.

      Oh wait, what's a Faecebook account. I don't think I have one of those.

  6. LDS Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "iincluding apps like OK Cupid, Airbnb, Google Maps [...]"

    Yes, and Windows competitors were Coca-Cola, Best Western (hey, hotels have a lot of windows!), and Fisher Price (XP GU!) ....

    I hope these arrogant morons soon hit an antitrust wall once and for all.

  7. Jimmy2Cows

    the fierce competition we face in Germany

    From whom...?

    If you're going to lie, at least try to make it believable.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: the fierce competition we face in Germany

      There was a German back in the 30s who famously said something along the lines of "if you're going to lie, make it a whopper."

  8. LDS Silver badge

    "its usual argument that people want highly tailored content"

    The New York Times published a research some days ago telling that no, actually users don't want highly tailored contents, and even less so when they are made aware of the data slurping behind the tailoring. The only ones accepting them are those hoping to get discount coupons for products in exchange - probably the same who spend a lot of time cutting them out from newspapers and buy a lot of things they don't need.

    "Contextual" ads - if I'm on a photo gear site there's a good chance I'm interested in that and related goods - would probably work better than showing my photo gear ads while I'm perusing a software development site, or viceversa, but that would put control of the ads in the hands of the site owners, and being far simple, won't allow them to ask for the same prices and justify their very one existence.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: "its usual argument that people want highly tailored content"

      Contextual ads should be enough. And would probably be better given how often "targeted ads" keep advertising things I have already purchased to me for months afterwards.

      No, I really don't need 5 tvs, thanks, the one I JUST bought is good enough, thankyou very much.

      1. KBeee

        Re: "its usual argument that people want highly tailored content"

        My experience exactly. I just bought a label printer, I'm being emailed constantly with adverts to buy other brand label printers. How many label printers do they think I want? It's less "Targeted Advertising" than Mistargeted crap.

        I've also never been on Facebook, but I get daily emails to my real full name, and private email address trying to get me to sign up. I know they got this information about me by slurping info from the Contacts of a friend who is on Facebook. What a cunt Company.

        Remember the old joke "How do you know a Politician is lying?" "Their lips move"? I think that pretty much applies to Facebook and all their assurances too.

  9. Baldrickk Silver badge

    Remove WhatsApp microphone permissions

    And here's where I remind people once again to revoke microphone permissions for WhatApp. It listens in the background to what you are saying, which is _supposedly_ to be used for targeting ads, but it all adds up.

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge

      Re: Remove WhatsApp microphone permissions

      Citation please.

  10. JLV Silver badge

    Excellent work, Germany. I don’t begrudge FB (which I don’t use) their existence, nor their advertising. But this obsessive snoopiness about activities happening outside of their core platform really has to go.

    And while you’re at it it, the same arguments about forced agreement and power imbalances applies to Win 10 telemetry.

  11. Southernboy

    The "But I don't care about them slurping my data" argument

    I'm not on Facbook for all the above reasons.

    My wife is happy to use Facebook and doesn't care if they're harvesting all her activity and her friends' activity and details. She says "So what - I've got nothing to hide, and I don't care that they are doing this".

    Has anyone got a good argument against this? Apart from my stock "But they just shouldn't be doing it, 'cos it's evil" response. I really need to give her a proper reasoned argument.

    Responses here or links welcome!

    1. Dabbb Bronze badge

      Re: The "But I don't care about them slurping my data" argument

      So you have your own opinion but can't explain it ? That's very rational.

      1. Southernboy

        Re: The "But I don't care about them slurping my data" argument

        Who says I need to be rational?

    2. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: The "But I don't care about them slurping my data" argument

      Does she close the lavatory door in the presence of strangers?

      If, so, why?

      Nothing to hide, etc....

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Off the (advert) grid

    No Facebook

    No Social Media

    No Google stuff

    Limited sign-up in general

    It's a daily struggle just staying (relatively) unknown.

  13. Cynical Pie

    But But but....

    we are doing this for the benefit of our product... I mean users... users, yes definitely users, not a product no, not at all ***phew think I got away with that and no one noticed***

  14. William1940

    Facebook's behavior in one word is REPUGNANT !

  15. JCB382

    Why Do People Still Trust Anything Zuck & Friends Say?

    Every time I read this sort of article I am reminded of how smart I was to never have an account at Facebook, WhatsApp or any other social media, not using Google for searches or email, installing a VPN to encrypt my data when I'm online and running a scrubber twice a day. I do no online browsing, shopping or banking, don't have or want a debit or ATM card, use prepaid credit cards to pay for newspaper subscriptions, and pay for everything in cash. There is no data on my phone (I don't have a car so don't need the GPS). The only way to protect and preserve one's privacy these days is to stay as far off the grid as possible.

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