Facebook’s massively lucrative advertising model relies on tracking its one billion users—as well as the billions on WhatsApp and Instagram—across the web and smartphone apps, collecting data on which sites and apps they visit, where they shop, what they like, and combining all that information into comprehensive user profiles.
Facebook has maintained that collecting all this data allows the company to serve ads that are more relevant to users’ interests.
On Thursday, Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, the country’s antitrust regulator, ruled that Facebook was exploiting consumers by requiring them to agree to this kind of data collection in order to have an account, and has prohibited the practice going forward.
The company has one month to appeal.
“When there is a lack of competition, users accepting terms of service are often not truly consenting.
“As a dominant company Facebook is subject to special obligations under competition law.