The German federal competition authority, also known as the Bundeskartellamt, has begun proceedings to investigate Facebook’s data harvesting practices. However, the grounds for the investigation are not data protection, they are antitrust. Specifically, Germany alleges that Facebook’s terms and conditions, as they relate to its use of user data, are unlawful, and because they must be accepted in order to access Facebook’s service, Facebook’s use of those terms and conditions constitute an abuse of market position. According to the German competition authority, “If there is a connection between such an infringement and market dominance, this could also constitute an abusive practice under competition law.” This move to link data-protection related privacy concerns to antitrust claims is interesting, as the fines for violating antitrust laws are higher than the fines for privacy violations, and the department that investigates antitrust claims is much better resourced than others. European countries have expressing privacy concerns against Facebook to no legal avail, as Facebook often uses a jurisdiction-based defense, arguing individual EU countries do not have jurisdiction over its regional European business. However, if Germany is successful here, this could prove a viable way to get around Facebook’s so-far successful stance.
Read more about the story here: http://techcrunch.com/2016/03/02/facebook-faces-german-antitrust-privacy-probe/
Jennifer Marr is an Entertainment and Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2018).