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Leonid Bershidsky

Germany Gets It Wrong on Facebook

Confusing privacy rules with antitrust regulations will help no-one.

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Photographer: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

The move by German antitrust authorities to limit Facebook Inc.’s collection of data from third-party sites is fair in principle – but unhelpfully muddies the distinction between antitrust and privacy rules. The watchdog should have steered clear of this fight.

The Federal Cartel Office ruled on Thursday that Facebook abuses its dominant position in the German market for social networks by collecting and aggregating user data – not just from its own services, such as Whatsapp and Instagram, but also from every website that has a Facebook “Like” button or uses its analytics tools. The company, the regulator argues, uses the data to strengthen its dominant position by increasing its attractiveness to advertisers and impeding competitors which don’t have such huge data troves.