Meta has dealt a blow as the highest court in the European Union upheld a ruling by German antitrust regulators which found the company exploited its social media dominance.
The decision allows Germany’s antitrust enforcer, the Bundeskartellamt, to prevent Meta from aggregating user data across its platforms without explicit user consent.
It includes data from Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, as well as external websites and apps.
The court’s ruling challenges Meta’s business model, which heavily relies on leveraging the vast amounts of user data it collects to sell targeted advertising.
The decision is expected to have implications beyond Germany and could influence antitrust authorities across the European Union.
It also strengthens the foundation for antitrust enforcement to examine data collection practices that could undermine competition, aligning with the forthcoming Digital Markets Act.
It is an EU antitrust law that fosters competition in the technology sector.
The court ruling not only pertains to antitrust regulations but also addresses potential violations of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
German regulators had previously found Meta’s data collection practices breached not only competition rules but also the GDPR.
They emphasized the need for user permission rather than unbridled data collection based solely on user sign-ups.
Andreas Mundt, Germany’s top antitrust regulator, said Meta’s policies imposed a false choice on users.
It compels them to share their data when using Meta’s services or abstain altogether from the ubiquitous social media platforms.
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The ruling is a major setback to Meta, prompting the company to reevaluate its position and make necessary changes to comply with the decision in Germany.
The implications extend beyond Meta, impacting other online platforms that extensively collect data for digital advertising, such as Amazon, Google, and TikTok.
Meta responded to the ruling by stating that it evaluates the court’s decision and will provide further commentary in due course.
The company would have to implement changes in Germany to align with the court’s ruling, likely introducing a new menu granting users more control over their data collection choices.