The ruling is a setback for the U.S. social media giant, which also could set a precedent for the future, with Germany being the first country to explore whether or not data dominance is an antitrust issue.
The Federal Court’s order supersedes a lower court order, reimposes an order by the Federal Cartel Office and rules that Facebook took advantage of its massive market dominance to unjustly gather user data.
“Facebook must give users the choice to reveal less about themselves — above all what they reveal outside of Facebook,” said lead Judge Peter Meier-Beck, who said there was no real doubt that Facebook had abused terms set by the cartel office.
Federal Cartel Office President Andreas Mundt was in favor of the ruling, saying that “if data are collected and exploited illegally, it should be possible to take antitrust action to prevent the abuse of market power,” Reuters reported.
Facebook said there was no antitrust abuse and vowed to continue fighting the ruling. The company said there would be “no immediate change” for customers who use its services in Germany.
Rupprecht Podszun at the Institute for Competition Law at Heinrich Heine University in Duesseldorf said the court wanted to “tame the tech giants and to stop the build-up of economic power through integration of data to ‘super profiles’,” according to Reuters.
PYMNTS reported last year that the Cartel Office was trying to fight attempts by a regional court in Dusseldorf to nix its restrictions on Facebook’s data gathering. At that time, Mundt said that the Federal Cartel was confident it had the power to impose regulation.
The Federal Cartel was concerned specifically with Facebook’s data collection through apps like WhatsApp, Instagram, games and other websites, and particularly with people who were not even registered with the main Facebook app itself. The Federal Cartel office has been monitoring Facebook since 2015, before it was revealed that the social media company had allowed data collection firm Cambridge Analytica to access the data of tens of millions of users unknowingly. That scandal is under investigation by the FBI, Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.