Germany Has Ordered Facebook To Rein In Its Data Collection

From recode

German regulators are trying to clamp down on Facebook’s data collection practices — a move that could force Facebook to make technical changes to its app in order to continue operating in the country.

The Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s Federal Cartel Office in charge of antitrust laws, restricted Facebook from “[merging] user data from various sources,” the office announced Thursday.

Essentially, it wants to block Facebook from combining user data that it collects through its other apps, like WhatsApp and Instagram, with data on Facebook. This would also restrict Facebook from collecting and combining any “data collected on third-party websites,” such as cookie data Facebook uses to target people with advertising. 

If Facebook wants to merge this data — to use your web browsing history to show you a targeted ad, for example — it would need to get “voluntary consent of the user.”

Andreas Mundt, the president of the Bundeskartellamt, says that Facebook’s massive scale in Germany is what has spurred regulators to take action. The Bundeskartellamt claims that 23 million out of Germany’s 80 million citizens use Facebook every day. 

“The extent to which Facebook collects data without the consent of the user, feeds it to the user account and exploits it is abusive,” the agency’s press release said.

More here.

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15 Responses to Germany Has Ordered Facebook To Rein In Its Data Collection

  1. Edward Holzel February 8, 2019 at 5:06 pm #

    Facebook is starting to face some problems with its questionable data collecting methods in Germany. The Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, is restricting Facebook from merging user’s data from multiple sources. As the Bundeskartellamt publicly stated, “The extent to which Facebook collects data without the consent of the user, feeds it to the user account and exploits it is abusive”. In other words, the Federal Cartel Office is preventing Facebook from combining the data gathered from several social media applications, such as Instagram and WhatsApp. The ban will go into effect in one year, barring any appeals by Facebook.
    Personally, I believe that Germany is taking a progressive step forward into how data is regulated. Data gathering and selling is very new to the markets and is ever evolving with technological advancements. Most countries have yet to construct laws and regulations that are effective in protecting people’s private information from being gathered without the notice of the user. Personally, I believe that my information that is saved on my laptop and phone, without my knowing, should be taken advantage of by companies such as Facebook. Facebook sells personal information for 20-40 cents a person, which isn’t that much. However, considering all the people that use their social media apps, that equals 46-96 million dollars. At least 46 million dollars is being generated from what can be considered stolen data. Not to mention, the inherent risk of Facebook gathering this private information. The Cambridge Analytica shows the risk involved with gathering large amounts of personal information. Over fifty million people had their data comprised in the catastrophic event. The Cambridge Analytica disaster alone should have shown countries that what Facebook is doing is inherently devious and involves a high level or risk leaving so much information with one company. In conclusion, Countries around the world should follow the lead of Germany and start enforcing laws and regulations on data-snatching companies like Facebook.

  2. Jon Sozer February 8, 2019 at 6:07 pm #

    Facebook is currently known globally for taking and using user data on a massive, deep-reaching scale. Regardless of what face they wish to save or distraction they would like to conjure up, the hard truth is that they are taking data and forgoing privacy to push relevant advertisements and reach certain demographics. In order to combat this, German regulators have put forth measures to restrict Facebook from taking and utilizing user data for their personal gain. In fact, with the regulations that Germany has put into place, Facebook must gain voluntary consent from each user before accessing their data and processing it in whichever fashion they choose to make money.

    Personally, I am sceptical that this would prove to be anything more than an inconvenience to Facebook and the millions of users that are less internet literate than the average. Facebook could cook up a new path of conning their users into accepting to give up their data within a long paragraph of jargon. The article states that Germany’s restrictions on Facebook could prove to be significant to their earnings on advertisement, but I doubt that the backlash to the company will last for long. They simply have too large of a website with far too many users that don’t care or can’t recognize the importance of the matter for Germany’s decision to be brutal. However, if more countries follow in Germany’s footsteps and rework their privacy regulations and data usage regulations to restrict Facebook, then this could be the first step to a big change.

  3. Rayzan Alarashi February 9, 2019 at 12:30 pm #

    No matter the social media platform that one uses, we have all been victim to targeted advertising. One moment we are browsing Amazon to possibly buy a product, and then all of a sudden that same product is being advertised to us on our personal Instagram feed. It gives us the feeling that were almost being watched, but in fact this is just one way that companies go about collecting data in order to promote their business. This particular data collection method has recently put Facebook under scrutiny because some are claiming the uses are not “voluntarily giving consent”. We can all vouch for how irritating it can be to get bombarded with constant advertisements, but to say that we don’t “consent” is a false claim. Whenever we signup for a new app or social media platform, we are all asked to read the lengthy terms and agreements and approve of them, but how many of us genuinely go through the pages and read them before consenting to the polices. Nearly none of us do this, and I can guarantee that somewhere along those polices is the agreement to having our data collected in order to help the app make a better experience for us. The fact that Germany is claiming Facebook is invading people privacy by doing this is an outreach. For as long as Facebook has existed, they have been following this same policy, so I don’t see why it is an issue all of a sudden. For the user’s part, I don’t believe that anyone is so frustrated with Facebook doing this to the point where they would stop using the app for good. I am sure that even if we were to ban apps from collecting user’s data, they would eventually find some loophole around it one way or another. Everywhere else in the world people have consented to Facebook’s user agreement policy, making it the most utilized app worldwide with billions of users. On that basis alone, I believe that Facebook without a doubt will find a way to get the users of Germany to consent as well.

  4. Jack F Comfort February 10, 2019 at 7:45 pm #

    If the rest of Europe was to follow suit with what Germany was doing this could be particularly crippling for Facebook. The main way Facebook makes money is off the advertisements they run and they specifically give people advertisements based on the stuff they follow or look up. The algorithm they have in place for these targeted ads requires Facebook to compile your data so they can effectively place these ads and generate the most profit. If they were unable to collect your data, as the new bill says, they would lose almost all of their profit in the European market. What’s even more troubling for Facebook is if the U.S implements a similar type of bill. This could potentially spell the end of Facebook and other social media websites

  5. Josh Shupper February 12, 2019 at 8:03 pm #

    Facebook has been in the news a lot lately and for a lot of wrong reasons. This time, they have been accused by of stealing data from Facebook users in Germany by what is known as the Bundeskartellamt, the German office that focuses on antitrust laws. The office wants Facebook to stop trying to mesh data received from their users on not only their Facebook accounts, but also Instagram and WhatsApp. The way that Facebook has accumulated so much data is through the cookie data used to put through all of their advertisement to their users. Instead, Facebook would have to get consent from the user to show a particular ad based on the information presented in the article.
    From a social media user’s point of view, I would say that Germany is doing the right thing trying to limit what Facebook can do in terms of collecting data. People have a right to know that they will be safe, no matter what social media platform they use. Facebook has had a history of getting into trouble with the law, and this is certainly no exception to that. It has happened not only in Germany, but probably all over the world including other European countries like the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and even in the United States as well. Facebook is stealing data and giving it away like they do not care about their users. Considering over 20 million of the people which is more than a quarter of the total population living in Germany are daily Facebook users, that is certainly going to be a bad situation for Facebook. They simply continue to hurt their reputation in the worst possible way. Especially with the fact that Facebook is going to go to court against the Federal Cartel Office in Germany, all I would have to say is good luck. Facebook is continuing to throw money out the window in a case against the country of Germany in which they will probably lose if you ask me. It feels like something must change with the data collecting principles with Facebook, but I am not sure of how they will do it. The good thing that will help them for now in the short term is time. Facebook has at least a year and maybe even more than that depending on how their court case lasts to try to straighten things out. Hopefully, Facebook can save itself from rock bottom and complete chaos, but it remains to be seen if they can recover from another hiccup in the climb back to having respect.

  6. Danielle C February 13, 2019 at 12:30 pm #

    I do agree with Kurt’s post. Facebook’s privacy issue is very quietly known about just like most other websites and the large majority of their money comes from advertisements from third parties based on a user’s specific search. With Germany possibly being the first country to crack down on websites like Facebook who take advantage of user’s data is good. People have been losing more privacy than they have in the past and it is only getting worse. For example, when people do tests on sites like 23AndMe.com or Ancestry.com, they are giving up information about themselves to know more about their background, but that sample the company got from them does not go to waste. It is bought by or given to companies who work solving crimes organizing people’s DNA to possibly open/solve a case and more. This is very similar to Facebook getting people’s data. If Germany was given the okay to have Facebook decrease the amount of data they collect on users, Facebook is more than likely to come up with a different way to make money off of their customers. For example, with Facebook marketplace, people sell their items (new or gently used) on their site which lets other users buy these items. These items range from everything like clothing, to furniture, services, and more. Facebook could make users agree that they could get a percentage of sales which would vary on the price. This is done through companies like Ebay, Etsy, and Amazon. Facebook is more than capable to find other ways to make money on their site. As much as advertisements are cheap and can bring in the most money, what makes Facebook unique and outstanding to its competitors is their variety and difference from other social media sites. Facebook should begin to crack down on data collection from users because if Germany’s law becomes approved, more countries like the United States will want to step up and put forth the same act as Germany to protect their citizens. Also, if Germany gets approved to stop data collection from Facebook, they could probably spread this to more sites like Twitter, Instagram, and more where they can protect and stop companies from selling and using their customer’s data.

  7. Kyle Stephens February 15, 2019 at 1:47 pm #

    Facebook has never been something that I use every day. Back in fifth grade when its popularity sky rocketed I was distraught that my mom didn’t let me make one a Facebook. All my friends had one even my older brother had one. My mom told me it wasn’t safe because people would steal my information. I never believed her until the accusations came out in the news that Facebook was secretly stealing our information and selling it to companies. Who would have thought my mom was actually right.
    When a company as big as Facebook does something like this I am always left confused and simply wondering why. Why would you do this? The company is already huge and highly successful so why risk all that for some extra money doing some sketchy stuff that will clearly give you nothing but trouble when users find out. Another thing I really dislike about this is how Facebook continues to try and be the good guys. They claim everything they’re doing (in Germany) is lawful and is helping them, when In reality they are selling search histories, personal information, etc. Facebook continues on a downward spiral. Since these actions have been brought to the attention of Facebook users, Facebooks market value has dropped 120 billion dollars. Making it very clear that this decision was a poor one.
    One way Germany is attempting to combat this is by regulating it using Bundeskartellamt, which is Germany’s Federal Cartel Office in charge of antitrust laws. They plan on blocking Facebook from combining user information that they collect on other apps. By doing this they would eliminate random pop up ads, targeted ads, and Facebook would have less information, which at this point seems very important. The way they plan on doing this is by making users give voluntary consent for targeted ads or anything else Facebook is using that data for. By regulating Facebook, Germany is giving the people a better sense of security which I feel is very important anytime you log on to do anything on your computer. I believe America should also adopt this idea.

  8. Cameron Kharazmi February 15, 2019 at 5:44 pm #

    It makes me ecstatic to know that there is some sort of challenge to the business practices of big internet developers such as Facebook by governments of large countries. Knowing that their people deserve to have their own information and privacy protected, it is important that more countries, especially Western ones, operate with strict regulations against such entities. But I believe that doing so will grow more challenging over the years, as internet giants such as Facebook and Google continue consolidate and control up-and-coming innovations and business created on the internet. As such, it is logical that they would want to link their services to that of the new company they had bought, so the idea that Facebook would try to collect data from other applications and websites it owns is not surprising. On a personal level, I appreciate the idea that data collection is used for the purpose of innovation and improvement of Facebook’s overall content, but in my own knowledge I don’t believe that such data collection is used solely for such a purpose, and there is malpractice in the way our personal information is handled. The majority of people around the world now use the internet every day, and a large majority of those people have a social media presence, opening up their personal lives for any user around the world to see, and allowing big companies to analyze. I believe the German order for Facebook to stop some of its data collection practices is founded under the same ideology, and that it serves to protect people who may not consent to the use of their information by Facebook on an app that they do not know is owned by Facebook. I have made multiple mentions on this course blog that I believe that the larger the internet grows, the less privacy we gain, and the less internet freedom the people hold. This assumption is founded with a good basis, as the article did make mention that Facebook will eventually find their way around the German ruling at some point in the near future, signaling their legal strength as a company and their intellect in escaping the law, and even ethical practice. Western civilization today is largely seen as much giving their citizens much more civil liberties. I do not believe it has the capability of granting them internet liberties, as big tech companies will find more ways to circumvent the law as they grow, both physically and fiscally.

  9. Daniel McNulty February 15, 2019 at 6:16 pm #

    In the world we live in today, one’s digital footprint is extremely accessible, and most people do not even know. Every single thing we trace, or every single place we bring our cellular device leaves a digital footprint as to what we are doing, when we are doing it, and even where we are doing it. Companies are able to attain our information very easily, as they work with other companies in order to help each other make more money. The main culprit that is guilty of doing this is Facebook. Facebook is a form of social media that users utilize to connect with friends, acquaintances, and even shop. This company works hand in hand with many other different companies and websites in order to collect data from certain users. If you ever wondered how ads that will appear on Facebook and other apps seem to be very relevant to what you have recently searched for on google, or purchases on a website? This is due to the fact that these companies are utilizing each other’s assets as a way to increase revenue. Germany has had enough. Germany believes that this is an invasion of privacy and that this shall no longer be tolerated. In order for Facebook to be able to utilize one’s browsing history in order to create relevant ads, then the user must volunteer to be subject to this strategy. The agency press in Germany even went as far as to state that The extent to which Facebook collects data without the consent of the user, feeds it to the user account and exploits it is abusive.” In order for Facebook to continue being accessible in Germany, the company may have to change their programming so that this does not happen, if this is passed. This is planning to go into effect in one year, if Facebook’s appeal is rejected. I find it very interesting that Germany has had enough of their people being subject to intrusion, and the United States of America has been much more quiet on this issue.

  10. Melissa Caniz February 15, 2019 at 8:47 pm #

    Germany regulators want to stop Facebook from combining user data that it collects through its other apps, like WhatsApp and Instagram, through Data on Facebook. For Facebook this would mean tragedy, it would have to make drastic changes to its app to continue operating in Germany. I recently created my Facebook profile last year and I cannot complain one bit, there are times where an Ad catches my attention, especially clothing ads and I immediately go to their website and if I like what I see then it is a done deal. The same goes for Instagram, certain Ads try to appeal to a person’s interests to make them spent money out of their pockets. Facebook asks to use our locations and username profile for certain apps for their convenience. For example, the app Nike Club uses my location to track my running path and it helps me keep track of my overall fitness. Without allowing Nike Club to track my running location I would not be able to use the app for its purpose and therefore the only option is to consent on these square boxes and allow them to use my privacy data for other businesses. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with Facebook using our information to satisfy their interest, it’s really not doing any harm to me directly,, their ads promote advertisements based on my likes on certain pictures. I see Facebook like trivago an agency that compares hotel prices from other websites in one site, Facebook promotes ads on their social platform based on our interests and basically summons all the cheapest attractive websites that appeal to us teenagers such as clothes, electronics and so on. It’s actually beneficial for me, I have all the websites in one area and I don’t need to search all over the infinite numerous websites in our world. Germany is in all its right to ban Facebook from taking people’ s information without their consent due to its laws and norms on protecting their citizen’s privacy, but would that really halt Facebook from finding a way around that law, only time will determine that answer. Now Facebook doesn’t go through all that trouble in gathering their millions of user profile data if it doesn’t in return provide them some monetary value from it. The only thing that I disagree with Facebook is that it goes through the entire history of our phones, laptops or other smart devices, that are connected through the binding of Facebook, without asking our permission. Now that’s when I side with Germany, I did not invite them to go through my browser history other than the application itself. In all sense, Facebook has less than a year to figure out this dilemma, if not then they will lose millions of Germany profiles and it will greatly impact their business of selling their usernames information to other companies.

  11. Tyler Graham February 15, 2019 at 8:54 pm #

    Seeing a headline like this makes me happy. The age we live in provides many uncertainties about privacy online, and where our data is being sold. It’s even more worrying when you consider companies like Facebook, that own a large aspect of people’s day to day media consumption. Instagram, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, as well as WhatsApp are all owned by Facebook, which means any activity on these apps is up for sale. With that, Facebook could merge all of that data, and create an expansive, detailed marketing profile on you. It’s a scary thought to say the least. The agency in the article describes Facebook’s collection and exploitation of their user’s data as “abusive”, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s scary to think that we live in a world where Facebook could know more about someone than their neighbor does, or even a family member. Facebook’s use of data should be condemned further, and users should be able to choose what data is being sold and what isn’t. I said it before and I’ll say it again – we as humans should have a right to control our own data as we please. If Facebook, or any other company for that matter wants to sell it, why shouldn’t we get a kickback for it? Regardless, I’m happy with what Germany’s agency seeks. It can be compared to an antitrust but for people’s data.

  12. Jamila Cuentas February 20, 2019 at 6:47 pm #

    Germany is demanding for Facebook to make technical changes to its app in order to continue operating in the country. Meanwhile, Facebook disagrees with the regulatory penalty as for them it is a sign that is collecting user data appropriately. I believe this is due to how advanced technology is becoming and making it easier for users to look at people profiles. The Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s Federal Cartel Office in charge of antitrust laws, wants to block Facebook from combining user data that it collects through its other apps, such as WhatsApp and Instagram. This would restrict Facebook from collecting and combining any “data collected on third-party websites” such cookie data Facebook uses to target people with advertising.
    I think Germany is trying to create a strong demand with Facebook, but Facebook is trying their best to show why they disagree with Germany. Facebook in this case, argues in their defense that a sign that is collecting user data appropriately. Meanwhile, in my opinion, Facebook recently is hacking or viewing profiles while they are private and that I will decrease my security with using Facebook. I do agree and noticed that Europe has been tougher on data privacy than the U.S., hence the General Data Protection Regulation Rules (GDPR) requirements. Although Facebook knew that European regulators were more likely than U.S. regulators to punish the company for its data policy practices. Even if Germany had the right for Facebook to use less of the users privacy data, they collect, they would find a way to make an economy out of their users.
    In addition, the use of Facebook is in competition with not just other social media but with e-commerce websites as well. These e-commerce are known as eBay and amazon. Few years, Facebook updated their app in providing users the option to shop or sell anything they desire or legal. Not only that but Facebook provides ads to target websites that the users normally search or look up. I believe with the knowledge of Facebook being another feature of linking to other e-commerce is something Facebook will win and have people from Germany think twice about.

  13. Nicholas Meyerback February 27, 2019 at 6:11 pm #

    On February 7th Germany’s national competitive regulator, The Bundeskartellamt, outlined legislation to hold Facebook accountable for its recent data misuse scandal. The antitrust agency detailed specific guidelines that Facebook must adhere to in order to continue operation within the sovereignty. First the company must relinquish its practice of combining user data from multiple platforms. Essentially the Bundeskartellamt is barring the media giant from analyzing user data from its other apps (WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram) as a whole. The agency also restricted Facebook from using cookies for target advertising.

    Germany is reacting to questionable practices that it feels threatens the rights of its citizens. At this point the public is generally aware that Facebook and tech conglomerates collect and store our data. What has come to fruition in recent years is that these corporations sell personal information so advertisers can better manipulate their strategies. In some cases companies have used the data themselves to exploit users. Facebook is guilty of both offenses. Facebook actively sells access to your timeline. With the ability to see what you “Like” they can promote advertisements that you will be more likely to be intrigued by and more likely to interact with. This nefarious practice isn’t limited to social media corporations, Google and Amazon are also notorious culprits in this affair. Although Google’s use of consumer data is seemingly more acceptable because of a basic understanding of their revenue design, they are also under heat for similar tactics. Google, like Facebook, harbors information on clients to generate a profile of its users. However, Google’s main concerns are data leaks that have revealed documents within its Google docs application.

    The effects of Germany’s action, if upheld (Facebook plans to appeal the ruling), are monumental for the future of surveillance capitalism. Facebook, Google and Amazon’s activities can be summed up in the concept of surveillance capitalism. Surveillance capitalism is how conglomerates transform data and personal information into capital (outlined above). The Bundeskartellamt fundamentally disrupted the process. Subsequently, the market for data has been completely revamped, at least within German jurisdiction. Individuals will become the suppliers for data in the event that the ruling is affirmed. Instead of Facebook selling our information each person will have the ability and the right to sell their data to the highest bidder. In this situation consumers would have the ultimate say in when and how their precious search history is used. Social media CEOs should be concerned if this is a true possibility. As a result, expect a long and expensive legal battle if other EU members take a similar approach.

    A world where individuals have that level of protection from corporations in the current American political climate is laughable. As long as the Trump Administration is in power and a conservative Supreme Court prevails there is little chance of the rights of users becoming a priority. The FCC actions in the case of Net Neutrality perfectly outlined this theme. Unfortunately, the reality is that Germany is doing a better regulating an American company than the United States.

  14. Luke Tyler March 1, 2019 at 3:49 pm #

    During the class discussion on internet privacy, this article on Germany’s new regulations came up into the conversation. Now after reading the article, I can start to see why the government is not taking the Facebook data merging lightly, saying that the company “exploits” user data. These practices by Facebook allow the company to generate revenue by aggregating more data which results in more advertising activity. Germany is attempting to block Facebook from compiling its data from its other services like WhatsApp and Instagram. By linking the data collection without consent, users are unaware that their data from other apps and 3rd party sites are used to display targeted ads for all platforms. To the power in the hands of users, Germany is only allowing Facebook to merge data if users consent to the company from doing so. However, Facebook argues that these functions by the company are essential to the stability and ease of use for all applications. This is because many users have connected accounts that use the same email and when they sign into Instagram or WhatsApp, they do it with their Facebook account. Also these new restrictions will put a heavy burden on Facebook’s advertisers, all this to ensure users have control of the online data.
    However, with Mark Zuckerberg leading Facebook, the company has the possibility of achieving similar numbers even though they have to jump through hoops. It is possible that user data consent can be easily applied to a Facebook terms of service agreement. Or when a user is to log into WhatsApp with a Facebook sign-in, there is a check box allowing Facebook to sync data for their “ease of use.” When it comes to having the upper hand, Facebook always will find a way to manipulate policy as a way to bypass government oversight. Germany is spearheading this attack as an anti-trust issue, but Facebook argues that merging data doesn’t fall under these laws because they aren’t preventing competition. To speculate, I would argue that these practices by Facebook can negatively affect the market. By Facebook having domain over most the internet web traffic, advertisers will be more eager to turn towards them looking to promote products. While Google has their own adwords and YouTube preview ads, businesses are utilizing Facebook’s reach and algorithms to get more defined marketing. Though it’s not likely, Facebook could wipe out the advertising of competitors. In the wake of a surveillance society, Germany is fed up with companies breaching the privacy of citizens and from their experience they know the dangerous results of deregulating. It will be interesting to see how the rest of Europe follows this case and the response by American citizens.

  15. John Holliday March 14, 2019 at 3:02 pm #

    Germany is threatening another large corporation of regulation, in this case it’s Facebook. Germany believes that Facebook collects user data in an unethical way and violates user privacy rights. The article states that almost thirty percent of German citizens use Facebook every day. In this case, Germany thinks that they are doing the right thing by protecting their citizens. It’s important to not that Facebook also owns both, Instagram and Whats App. With this being said, Germany pretty much wants to restrict Facebook from collecting data from users on their other applications like Instagram and Whats App. The reason Facebook needs to collect this data is to generate revenue. I believe over ninety percent of Facebook’s revenue is generated from advertisements.
    I understand the other blog comments that agree with regulation on Facebook and don’t fully trust Facebook, but I bet that they use one of their apps multiple times a day. If you don’t believe that Facebook keeps your data safe or you don’t like the way they sell your data why do you continually use their services? You agree to the terms and policy and use it everyday, but you call for regulation. That doesn’t make sense. Regulation slows down economic growth tremendously, look at Germany they haven’t grown in years because they just regulate every major company that operates in their country. Facebook employees a tremendous amount of people, and will likely continue to be a major player in the employment market so obviously regulating Facebook will only lead to less job opportunities. Every country depends on large corporations to give out jobs to their citizens. For example, look at what happened with New York and Amazon around a month ago. Amazon said they were going to build part of their second headquarters in New York and some New York citizens protested Amazon’s decision. A few weeks later Amazon stated that they weren’t going to build their headquarters in New York anymore due to the public opposition. The governor of New York stated that they needed Amazon, because he knew they would employee a tremendous amount of people in his state. Well the outcome of the protest is New York losing a tremendous amount of jobs and housing in the area drop. My point is, that local and federal economies rely on these big corporations for multiple different reasons, and regulation will kill economies. Before you point your fingers at companies that need “regulation” maybe the easiest solution may just be putting your phone down or deleting the app.

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