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Facebook Meta owner criticizes Germany’s antitrust order to limit data collection and calls it ‘clearly wrong’

Meta Platforms, the owner of Facebook, on Tuesday criticized Germany’s historic antitrust order to limit data collection, calling it “clearly flawed” and undermining EU data protection rules.

Meta’s criticism of the German antitrust watchdog came after the latter said in 2019 that the world’s largest social network had abused its market power by collecting user data without their consent and ordered it to stop.

The competition officer said the data collection included users’ browsing habits when they visited a website with a Facebook “Like” button, even if the Internet user did not click the button.

The case highlights the growing scrutiny by regulators around the world of US tech giants and measures to curb their power.

However, in the case of Germany, the question is also whether the supervisor has exceeded its authority by using its antitrust powers to address data protection concerns.

Meta appealed this decision to a German court, which subsequently turned to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for clarification.

The German antitrust order was “clearly deficient” due to Facebook’s “far-reaching restriction on data processing,” Meta lawyer Hans-Georg Kamann told a panel of 15 judges.

He criticized the German watchdog for not cooperating with the Irish data protection regulator that controls Facebook because its European headquarters is in Ireland.

“The Bundeskartellamt openly violated the substantive and procedural requirements of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation),” Kamann said.

Jörg Notdurft, a lawyer for the German watchdog, dismissed the criticism, saying there was contact with data protection regulators.

The German government defended the antitrust ruling, saying the competition authority needed to conduct a data protection assessment as part of its investigation as online marketplaces use user data to gain bargaining power.

The German order “serves the purpose of protecting free competition” and does not concern data protection, said its lawyer Philipp Krueger.

It’s about C-252/21 Meta Platforms and others.

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