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Germany's Federal Cartel Office Claims Facebook 'Extorts' Personal Data From Users ( 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Germany's Federal Cartel Office is examining whether Facebook essentially takes advantage of its popularity to bully users into agreeing to terms and conditions they might not understand. The details that users provide help generate the targeted ads that make the company so rich. In the eyes of the Cartel Office, Facebook is "extorting" information from its users, said Frederik Wiemer, a lawyer at Heuking Kuhn Lueer Wojtek in Hamburg. "Whoever doesn't agree to the data use, gets locked out of the social network community," he said. "The fear of social isolation is exploited to get access to the complete surfing activities of users." Andreas Mundt, the Cartel Office's president, said last week he's "eager to present first results" of the Facebook investigation this year. Like the EU's Google investigation, he said the Facebook case tackles "central questions ensuring competition in the digital world in the future".
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Germany's Federal Cartel Office Claims Facebook 'Extorts' Personal Data From Users

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    US Judge: It's totally fine if Facebook is tracking you tighter than we'd let the FBI track Nazis.

    German Judge: Stupid Nazi draconian Facebook terms and conditions are an Orwellian situation!

  • 1) Pass wierd legislation authorizing huge fines for whatever
    2) Levy huge fines against American companies
    3) Profit!

    • by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2017 @03:47AM (#54740527)

      Here's an interesting difference between USA and Germany:
      When Google or Facebook break the law in Germany and are fined for it - and the fines aren't even that high, maybe a couple of days of the company's profit - Americans are outraged. When VW breaks the law in the USA and gets an enormous fine that amounts to the yearly profit of the company, Germans generally agree that VW had it coming.

    • Those poor American companies. All they were doing was engaging in unethical behaviour that the weak regulatory culture of the US permits, and now they're not being allowed to do the same thing in Germany, where companies that had to abide by modest standards of acceptable behaviour couldn't compete!

      Next thing you know, you'll be saying that Chinese companies can't set up factories in America and employ people for $2/day working 16-hour days and dump their waste products directly in the Mississippi! Af

  • Just don't sign up; find real friends in the real world -- rather than a thousand people who you think are friends because they know what you had for breakfast.

  • by supernova87a ( 532540 ) <> on Monday July 03, 2017 @05:54PM (#54738241)
    Last I remember, Facebook and oh, wait, every other online activity is a voluntary participation. And I would hope that the German regulator realizes that the definition of extortion is: the demanding payment of money, property or services, while threatening to commit an illegal act if that is not fulfilled.

    I would hope that a regulator would be a bit more conservative about extending its domain where it doesn't have the right to.
    • Re:hyperbolic (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Monday July 03, 2017 @06:27PM (#54738419)
      Apparently you haven't missed a friend's WEDDING before because they only saw it fit to send invites on Facebook. It's happened to me. Now we can debate all day about how correct it was for them to do that, but event missed just the same. Facebook has become pervasive enough that people assume you are on it and forget to communicate in other ways.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        You're blaming Facebook for the fact that your "friend" didn't want you at his wedding?

      • You do realize...

        If your friend didn't bother to contact you personally, and if none of your mutual friends bothered to contact you either, and no one happened to mention the upcoming wedding in your presence...

        It may not have been an accidental oversight...


        • In this case we don't have any mutual acquaintances, and no that wasn't the situation. At any rate, they later expressed to me that there was another couple that was missed as well due to not being on Facebook. Perhaps they were just being polite, don't know, don't really care. At any rate, this is something that happens.
        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          It's the same as back in the days when not everyone had a mobile phone. People would send out invites to social events by just texting everyone in their phone's memory, and if you were not in it then you were likely to be overlooked or get a last minute on-the-day email. Not deliberately, but because human nature is forgetful and lazy and 19 out of 20 people they would think to invite are in their phone.

          Also remember that in the EU we have positive freedom, which means companies generally aren't allowed to

      • by pmotuja ( 787913 )
        Does facebook define friendship anywhere on their site? Just curious. All those friends you can get and all. I would think somewhere, maybe in the fine print even, they define what it means. Does it quantify how many friends you really need? Does it define what a good relationship is? Does it explain where it got the idea it was okay to stalk people all over the web?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      ... every other online activity is a voluntary participation ...

      Corresponding with businesses and government is voluntary? Government offices in my country now walk one through their online services, in the office if one is computer illiterate: They hand-over a paper and snail-mail alternative, only when a signature is required.

      It's not just online communication that is now "voluntary": I had a problem with my phone service, so I went to the local service branch. I told to phone a number, meaning I had to have a phone to complain that I didn't have a phone. The rea

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So you're fine with being tracked without your knowledge on sites that have nothing to do with FB, Goog or APL (all three tracking your information for their own purposes) asides from having this tiny comment area / like button (it says this even in the summary). Once you have an account, you cannot opt out without going out of your way every time.

      Even if you have a techie way with adblock or whatever, do you expect the common person to know about potential privacy issues let alone defend against them?


    • Even voluntary participation has to follow laws. It is that simple.

  • I keep hearing about all these people feeling betrayed and abused by Facebook but what I'm not hearing is these same people deciding to no longer use Facebook.

    Take some control of your life, nimrods!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well here's one story. I once had a facebook account for some months, but deleted the account when they came up with their "we can do anything"-EULA changes.

      I use noscript and have banned facebook scripts.

      Still why the hell should i have to do that? I don't know if it's even 100% effective. So how am i supposed to defend myself against that?

    • The problem is the network effect. The value of Facebook provided by Facebook is negligible, but the value of Facebook provided by your friends is significant. It's hard to be the one person in a social group that doesn't use Facebook. That said, I keep hearing how good Facebook is for organising things, so why not encourage your Facebook-using friends to use it to all agree to quit at the same time: if half of your friends don't quit Facebook, then the value of Facebook is suddenly a lot lower.
    • That's why the Germans claim Facebook uses extortion. Apparently it is so hard to leave / never join that it can not be expected from a reasonable person. Hence extortion; users are forced to join Facebook against there will. Not with a gun, but with social pressure.

  • by Green Salad ( 705185 ) on Monday July 03, 2017 @06:55PM (#54738581) Homepage

    I respect that facebook needs to make money. I would like to see a user-paid option, thus allowing me to participate by spending my money to pay my own way, so that facebook can monetize me directly filter out all ads and protect my private info.

    Participation was not optional, in my case, if I wanted to keep my high-paying IT job. Our clients used facebook as the sole method for registration and tracking in mandatory activities.

    I objected strenuously on principle and offered several workable alternatives, including asking the organizers to make up a fictitious account for me to use (I didn't want to be the one committing fraud) and was told I was being a "P.I.T.A." about privacy, as the whole point was to use a single, consolidated, low-cost method for tracking/reporting registration, participation, etc.

    • Participation was not optional, in my case, if I wanted to keep my high-paying IT job. Our clients used facebook as the sole method for registration and tracking in mandatory activities.

      So? Just create a throw-away email account, use that only for Facebook and put as little info into your profile as you can manage, all work related. Then, all you have to do is delete your account when you're through with it, along with the email address (or, if that's not practical, just walk away from that address) an
      • The fact that you think a throw away email address prevents facebook from tracking you, logged in or not, shows how unprepared you are to comment on this subject.

        Cookies now include IP and MAC addresses which are correlated by ad servers. Once they get your login once, they can track that ip across other services, many of which serve facebook ads or their subsidiaries and holdings. Statistical models are built to infer habits and profile browsers and devices so they can figure out if it's you even on new de

        • The fact that you think a throw away email address prevents facebook from tracking you, logged in or not, shows how unprepared you are to comment on this subject.

          I'm talking about somebody who uses it only for work, and only at work. Let them get my IP address and even my MAC address; it's not my computer, not my connection. Once I leave that company, there's nothing left that they can track.
      • Facebook, Google, etc. create profiles for everyone they see on the Internet, even people who don't sign up for accounts. Creating an account links his actual identity to that profile, allowing Facebook to tie that anonymous profile to things his friends may have said or posted that included him. As he's forced to log in from various devices, they can figure out if he prefers iOS or Android. By looking at who he associates with, they can make some pretty good guesses about his income and his leanings on var

    • I came to comment this. I think it's a good solution for both parties except for the part that would force Facebook to put a price on the data they usually gather about you. It's reasonable to think they would want to divulge that information.
      Anyway I think all services that are currently paid for with the data they gather about their users should have an option to pay with money. That would include not only Facebook, Google and other Internet services but also Windows 10. Many mobile apps have two options
  • Is it still worth the risk and costs? How to get your products over the new German digital wall.
    You users expect the same US freedom of speech and freedom after speech they get from a trusted US brand.
    Users know what they are signing up for and what they are doing with a US product and service they enjoy and want to use.
    Germans reach out to a US brand and want to enjoy and use that brands features and services.

    What is the solution given a new digital wall now surrounds Germany?

    Create German suppor
  • I'd leave Germany. Until things change. Too much hassle about Streetview? Sure, Germany. Poof! Gone. Happy now? Cr*p about news headlines and linking to articles? Sure. Poof. Gone. Oh and we'll also voluntarily remove any other links to your newspapers. Happy now? Oh? No? Oh we can do it again? Sure. Bang! Back. Just turn off with a nice explataory page with politicians' contact information to express unhappiness.

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur