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Germany hits Facebook with restrictions on its data gathering

Germany's antitrust watchdog says Facebook must alter the way it collects user data in the country.

In a decision announced on Thursday, Germany's Federal Cartel Office said Facebook can no longer combine user data obtained from multiple platforms, including WhatsApp and Instagram, in order to build one large profile unless given explicit permission, The New York Times reports. "Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook user accounts," the office said.

This decision also limits Facebook's ability to combine data gathered on users from around the web, The Verge writes, noting that Facebook is able to do so on websites where Facebook functions are enabled. In some cases, Engadget writes, users have their data collected and combined with their main Facebook profile even on websites "where there's no obvious sign the company is present."

Facebook, which reportedly has plans to merge its messaging services with those of Instagram and WhatsApp, says it will appeal this decision and called Germany's ruling an "unconventional standard," CNN reports. The company also said that combining data "helps us to protect people's safety and security, per the Times. But the Federal Cartel Office said that because the "only choice the user has is either to accept the comprehensive combination of data or to refrain from using the social network," therefore, "the user's choice cannot be referred to as voluntary consent."