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EU’s Top Court Backs German Watchdog’s Probe Into Meta’s Data Practices

 |  July 4, 2023

Meta Platforms suffered a major blow on Tuesday when the European Union’s top court backed a German antitrust watchdog’s order to probe into the company’s data harvesting practices. The Court of Justice of the European Union’s ruling has given antitrust authorities more leeway in Big Tech probes, which puts Meta Platforms in an unfavourable position.

The German cartel office had in 2019 ordered the social media giant to stop collecting users’ data without their consent, deeming this as an abuse of market power. However, before the ruling, the question that was at hand was whether the German authority had gone beyond its jurisdiction by using anti-trust power to address data protection concerns, reported Reuters. 

The CJEU judges supported the German cartel office’s decision, stating that “it may be necessary for the competition authority of the member state concerned also to examine whether that undertaking’s conduct complies with rules other than those relating to competition law.”

Read more: German Watchdog Likes Meta Plan For ‘More Transparent’ Data Collection

Andreas Mundt, the head of the German cartel office, said in this regard, “Data is a decisive factor in establishing market power. The use of the very personal data of consumers by the large internet companies can also be abusive under antitrust law.” In an expression of approval, his counterpart at the French competition agency, Benoit Coeure, released the statement, “The ruling a landmark decision on data protection as a competition parameter.”

Thomas Graf, a partner at law firm Cleary Gottlieb, further noted that while the ruling makes a bold statement, antitrust authorities still need to explain why it is relevant for antitrust law and demonstrate restrictive effects and abuse for further actions. He added, “They will need to coordinate with the GDPR authorities.”

Privacy activist Max Schrems, who has filed complaints about Meta Platforms, said the CJEU’s judgment will have a positive impact on his pending litigation with the company.

The recent ruling by European Union’s top court may prove to be a major setback for Meta Platforms. This landmark decision outlines the importance of data protection and the power it has to determine market power in major companies. Furthermore, it calls upon antitrust authorities to coordinate their actions with the GDPR policies for further proceedings.