Germany's federal cartel office (FCO) criticized the way Facebook deals with user data, saying that the social media corporation abuses its dominant position on the market.
"We criticize the way the company collects and exploits personal information as a potential abuse of market power. Users have to put up with the fact that data is collected from third-party sources, even though they know little or mostly nothing about it," FCO's President Andreas Mundt said in an interview with the Rheinische Post newspaper on Tuesday.
The German watchdog has warned Facebook of sanctions if the latter doesn't change its way of dealing with users' personal data.
"We can act effectively against a violation of that kind as far as it has an effect in the Federal Republic. We regularly conduct proceedings against foreign companies," Mundt said.
Germany's antitrust watchdog has repeatedly accused the social network of misusing user data and retrieving their personal information from third-party websites in order to control and analyze their online behavior.
The social media titan 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.
"On the one side the social network offers an apparently free service, on the other it offers attractive advertising space, whose value is so high because Facebook controls vast amounts of personalized data," Mundt said. "But Facebook has to abide by the rules and laws."
The inquiry into Facebook's personal data policy 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 other relevant agencies and the European Commission.