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Germany blocks Facebook’s merger plan, here’s why

Facebook recently confirmed that it is planning to merge its Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram into a unified system.

  • Published: February 8, 2019 11:14 PM IST
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Facebook has been in the news for its approach to user privacy. The company recently made headlines when CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that the company is planning to merge its messaging systems, including Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram into a single, unified system. Zuckerberg also made clear that the project — “to whatever term we end up doing this” — would likely not show up until 2020 and beyond. However, this project has raised concerns about users’ data privacy.

A Facebook spokesperson earlier asserted that “we want to build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private.” He further stated that “we are working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks.”

Sandra Wachter, a lawyer and Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, earlier said (to WIRED) that Facebook’s plan to merge the platforms is bound to trigger privacy concerns. “All the data will be now in one place basically,” she says. “Before this, you were still able to choose what service you were using now all your private communications will be collected centrally in one place.” “That poses questions in terms of privacy – and of cybersecurity,” as that will be a single point of vulnerability for hackers to target in an attempt to gain social network users personal data from all the platforms, the report stated.

Furthermore, regarding the merging of its messaging service, Germany also raised privacy concerns and has blocked Facebook’s Messenger-Instagram-WhatsApp merger. According to the German cartel office, the Bundeskartellamt, the social network has violated mandatory European data protection principles.

“We are mostly concerned about the collection of data outside Facebook’s social network and the merging of this data into a user’s Facebook account,” said Bundeskartellamt president Andreas Mundt. He further added that according to the ruling, effective immediately, the popular social network will no longer be entitled to encourage Facebook users to consent to the “unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook user accounts,” Thenextweb reported.

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The cited source further stated that as per authorities, the reason behind the ban is that Facebook has full control of social media, and this is illegal according to Germany’s antitrust laws. Additionally, Germany’s justice minister, Katarina Barley, told Reuters that the company “had reached far beyond its platform to collect user data.” “Users are often unaware of this flow of data and cannot prevent it if they want to use the services. We need to be rigorous in tackling the abuse of power that comes with data,” she said. Following this issue, Facebook said it disagreed with Bundeskartellamt’s conclusions and that they “intend to appeal so that people in Germany continue to benefit fully from all our services.”

  • Published Date: February 8, 2019 11:14 PM IST