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By Bruce Sussman
Thu | Feb 7, 2019 | 8:44 AM PST

Germany's privacy authority, the Bundeskartellamt, just slapped Facebook with restrictions over data collection policies which most users know nothing about.

Check out what Facebook is up to, according to the Bundeskartellamt:

Among other conditions, private use of the network is subject to Facebook being able to collect an almost unlimited amount of any type of user data from third-party sources, allocate these to the users’ Facebook accounts and use them for numerous data processing processes. Third-party sources are Facebook-owned services such as Instagram or WhatsApp, but also third-party websites which include interfaces such as the “Like” or “Share” buttons.

Where such visible interfaces are embedded in websites and apps, the data flow to Facebook will already start when these are called up or installed. It is not even necessary, e.g., to scroll over or click on a “Like” button. Calling up a website with an embedded “Like” button will start the data flow. Millions of such interfaces can be encountered on German websites and on apps.

Did you know Facebook is creating such a profile on you? Think of all the times you've seen a website with a like button and not thought anything about it.

In plain English, Facebook is taking information from all kinds of sources and adding it to the data profile it has on you. And you must agree to let them do it to use the company's services.

But not in Germany, if the restrictions stand. The privacy authority calls Facebook's actions an "exploitative abuse" of market power, and says the ruling will return some power back to the users.

Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, put it like this:

With regard to Facebook's future data processing policy, we are carrying our what can be seen as an internal divestiture of Facebook's data. In future, Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook user accounts. The combination of data sources substantially contributed to the fact that Facebook was able to build a unique database for each individual user and thus gain market power. In future, consumers can prevent Facebook from unrestrictedly collecting and using their data.

The Bundeskartellamt is quick to point out that Facebook can still collect and process information on Facebook users based on what they do on Facebook.

Read the German privacy authority statement on Facebook restrictions.

Facebook statement on Germany restrictions

Facebook says it will appeal the ruling because of misinterpretation and because it cares about its German users:

We disagree with their conclusions and intend to appeal so that people in Germany continue to benefit fully from all our services. The Bundeskartellamt underestimates the fierce competition we face in Germany, misinterprets our compliance with GDPR and undermines the mechanisms European law provides for ensuring consistent data protection standards across the EU.

Read the complete Facebook statement on the German ruling for yourself.

There is more to come on this story.

[RELATED: Security and privacy is on the agenda at regional SecureWorld conferences in 2019.]

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