Germany probes Facebook

IOL pic dec17 FACEBOOK-UBER-_1216_11 REUTERS Picture: Dado Ruvic, Facebook

Berlin - Germany’s antitrust regulator opened a probe into whether Facebook abused its power in the social network market by forcing customers to agree to terms allowing the use of their data.

The Federal Cartel Office is examining whether the terms breach data protection laws and whether imposing them is an antitrust violation, the authority said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.

For advertising-financed Internet services such as Facebook, information about users is hugely important, Office President Andreas Mundt said.

"Not every infringement on the part of a dominant company is also relevant under competition law," the regulator said. "However, Facebook’s use of unlawful terms and conditions could represent an abusive imposition of unfair conditions on users."

Facebook is “confident that we comply with the law and we look forward to working with the Federal Cartel Office to answer their questions,” according to an e-mailed statement.

Read also: Billionaires: Zuckerberg climbs rich list

The social network is facing mounting pressure in Europe over how it uses the treasure trove of customer data. The European Union’s 28 privacy watchdogs have been coordinating probes into possible violations of EU law by Facebook’s revamped policy for handling personal photos and data.

Data regulators from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Hamburg, Germany, have opened separate national investigations.

--With assistance from Stephanie Bodoni and Aoife White.

BLOOMBERG

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