German cartel office to take Facebook case to High Court

Germany’s cartel office on Monday said it would appeal a regional court decision, to suspend restrictions it had placed on Facebook’s data collection practices, to the country’s highest court.

A court in Duesseldorf had earlier suspended a February decision by the Federal Cartel Office to order Facebook (FB.O) to restrict its data collection in Germany.

“We are convinced that with the available antitrust laws, we can take regulatory action,’’ Andreas Mundt, the Head of the Cartel Office, said in a statement.

“To clarify these questions, we will file an appeal to the Federal Court of Justice.’’

Facebook appealed February’s landmark decision by the cartel office that the world’s largest social network abused its dominant market position to gather information about users without their consent.

The Higher Regional Court in Duesseldorf said in its ruling earlier on Monday: “The suspension of the order means that Facebook does not have to implement the decision of the Federal Cartel Office for the time being’’.

Facebook declined to comment.

The court said its temporary injunction, removing restrictions on Facebook’s data gathering, would be valid until it had made a final decision on the company’s appeal.

Germany, where privacy concerns run deep, is at the forefront of a global backlash against Facebook, fuelled by last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal in which tens of millions of Facebook profiles were harvested without their users’ consent.

The antitrust watchdog objected in particular to how Facebook pools data from third-party apps – including its own WhatsApp and Instagram – and its online tracking of people, who aren’t members through Facebook ‘like’ or ‘share’ buttons.

In July, Facebook said it would improve user data safeguards as part of a settlement to resolve a U.S. government probe into its privacy practices, which resulted in a $5 billion fine.

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