Facebook Finally Held to Account

FACEBOOK FINALLY HELD TO ACCOUNT Facebook is finally being taken to task at government level for collecting data without consent.

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, the Bunderskartellamt, yesterday ruled against Facebook for collecting data without consent.

The world’s largest social network, the watchdog said, abused its market dominance by gathering information about users without their knowledge or consent.

The Cartel Office was especially vexed by the way Facebook combines data from seemingly third-party apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram. It also uses ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons to track people who are not members of Facebook.

Germany’s Justice Minister Katarina Barley welcomed the finding, saying: “Users are often unaware of this flow of data and cannot prevent it if they want to use the services. We need to be rigorous in tackling the abuse of power that comes with data.”

The German watchdog is to be congratulated. At 2020Plus, we have long spoken out for greater privacy protections in regard to social media, and for greater social responsibility among social media companies. Germany is taking an important lead in this regard. 

It is to be hoped that watchdog authorities in other nations will soon follow suit.

Facebook does not have a great record when it comes to respecting the data of its users. Not long ago, the company released, without authorisation, data from 87 million user accounts to the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook claims to have 2.32 billion user accounts globally, though there are disputes about how many of these might be fake accounts, set up by bots. Yet the company sees user data as its own property, while at the same time seeking to avoid government regulation by claiming to be merely a platform for data belonging to others.

It is high time the company was called out for this double standard.

Of course, Facebook is just one of a number of companies that have a cavalier attitude to data. However, as the largest social media provider, by some margin, it must accept that it will be targeted first.

On some things, change that's driven by free markets is clearly not enough. Only governments have the power to challenge and limit the power of social media megaliths.  

Read Mal Fletcher’s related editorial “Should Social Media Be Banned?”

Hear Mal's related BBC interview 

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