BERLIN: Germany’s competition authority has warned Facebook that its collection of data is “problematic” and may breach privacy laws.

The Bundeskartellamt began investigating the social media giant last year and, in a preliminary ruling yesterday, found that it had a dominant position in Germany’s social media market and questioned its approach to accumulating user information.

“Above all, we consider the data collection outside of the social network of Facebook and their integration with the Facebook account to be problematic,” said Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt.

He noted that signing up to a Facebook account required users to permit the company “to limitlessly amass every kind of data generated by using third-party websites and merge it with the user’s Facebook account”.

The Bundeskartellamt did not see that this constituted “effective consent” of the user. “The scale and design of the data collection violates mandatory European data protection ratings," Mundt added.

Facebook dismissed the report as inaccurate. “Although Facebook is popular in Germany, we are not dominant,” said Yvonne Cunnane, Facebook’s head of data protection in Ireland. “We’re just one part of how people interact,” she said in remarks reported by the Financial Times.

Germans certainly lag behind their counterparts in other parts of the world in their take-up of the platform: 41% of Germans have active Facebook accounts, according to a survey by We Are Social and Hootsuite, compared to 66% in the US, 64% in the UK and 56% in France.

The ruling comes as a Facebook marketing drive is attempting to reassure German users and to debunk the “urban myths” that surround the network.

“It is working very well to drive engagement and overall metrics for us in Germany,” according to chief marketing officer Gary Briggs.

The campaign also coincides with the imminent implementation of a new law which allows heavy fines on social media sites that fail to promptly remove hateful messages .

Sourced from Bundeskartellamt, Financial Times, Reuters; additional content by WARC staff