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German Watchdog Slams Facebook for 'Abusive' Data Collection Practices

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The social media giant is presumably making a fortune from advertising that is based on information retrieved from its users' social connections and posts, which often happens without their knowledge.

The Federal Cartel Office (FCO) said on Tuesday that Facebook was abusing its market power to limitlessly collect user data from external websites and apps, giving its advertisers an opportunity to target customers with hyper-specific ads.

In particular, Germany's antitrust watchdog accused the social network of misusing users' data and retrieving their personal information from third-party websites in order to control and analyze their online behavior.

"The agency assumes that Facebook currently dominates the German market of social networks. The FCO believes that Facebook is acting abusively by making the use of its social network conditional on the possibility of collecting any user data from third-party sources unrestrictedly," the FCO said in a statement.

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The third parties include such apps as WhatsApp and Instagram (which are owned by Facebook), as well as other sources that are less obviously connected with the social media giant, Germany's competition watchdog stated.

The FCO does not have an authority to fine Facebook for abusive practices, but the social media giant can be forced to change or even stop some of its activities.

The inquiry was launched in 2016 and is expected to be over by mid-2018. The investigation is being conducted in close contact with the German government's coordinator for data protection, as well as the relevant agencies and the European Commission.

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