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.