Germany’s Highest Court Rules Against Facebook on Data Collection

The ruling is a blow against the social media giant’s data collection systems and the broadness with which they are allowed to operate without user consent.

The Karlsruhe, Germany’s highest civil court, ruled on Tuesday that Facebook must comply with orders from the German antitrust watchdog and change the way it handles data collected from its user base.

The ruling determined that the social media platform requires explicit consent from users before merging their Facebook data with that of third-party platforms, such as WhatsApp and Instagram.

Facebook must give users the choice to reveal less about themselves – above all what they reveal outside of Facebook,” said lead judge Peter Meier-Beck.

Tuesday’s ruling relates to a legal dispute between Facebook and the German antitrust watchdog that began in February 2019, when the Federal Cartel Office blocked Facebook from collating user data from multiple platforms without user consent. Facebook filed an appeal and gained a suspension of the decision, with a lower court ruling that Facebook did not need to comply prior to a final court decision.

The latest ruling by the Karlsruhe supersedes the lower court’s ruling, thereby ordering Facebook to comply with the watchdog’s terms.

Andreas Mundt, head of the Federal Cartel Office, applauded the decision by the Karlsruhe. “Today’s ruling gives us important clues as to how we should deal with the issues of data and competition,” he said.

In a statement, Facebook made clear that the ruling was not final. “The main proceedings, before the court of appeals, are ongoing and we will continue to defend our position that there is no antitrust abuse,” the company said.

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