Germany’s highest civil court has ordered Facebook to comply with rules issued by the country’s competition watchdog that curb its ability to merge data between its various platforms such as the Whatsapp, Instagram and the main Facebook service, along with third-party data.

The issue of consent sits at the heart of the ruling, with the judges in the case writing, “There is no effective consent to the users’ information being collected if their consent is a pre-requisite for using the Facebook.com service in the first place.”

“Users use social networks as a virtual social space. When assessing the market share, the amount of time spent intensively using the network is an important indicator of the competitors’ actual market position. The services of the Facebook group would have had a combined market share far beyond the market dominance threshold pursuant to section 18 (4) GWB even if Youtube, Snapchat, Twitter, Whatsapp and Instagram where included in the relevant market.”

Reacting to the decision, Jason Kint the CEO of Digital Content Next wrote on Twitter, “Reading English translation of German Cartel Office decision against Facebook and they nailed it. Incredibly instructional to global policy and @FTC who can layer in Facebook / Cambridge Analytica / GSR shenanigans on every spoke of that chart. Dominance + Data = abuse.”

Today’s ruling confirms the 2019 decision by the Federal Cartel Office against the social media giant combining data from its own properties with data it hoovers up from third party sites that use its tool.

Andreas Mundt, who heads the cartel office, issued a statement saying, “Today’s ruling gives us important clues as to how we should deal with the issues of data and competition.”

Mundt said, “Data are an essential factor for economic strength and a decisive criterion in assessing online market power. The court’s decision provides important information on how we should deal with the issue of data and competition in the future. If data are collected and used in an unlawful way, antitrust authorities must be able to intervene to prevent an abuse of market power.”

The Financial Times meanwhile quotes the presiding judge Peter Meier-Beck, as saying there were no doubts that Facebook was market-dominant and “abuses” its market power through the “terms of use that were prohibited by the cartel office.

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