​Facebook prompts EU antitrust questions over data, marketplace

17 July 2019 4:32pm

2 July 2019, by Nicholas Hirst and Lewis Crofts

Facebook is facing the prospect of EU antitrust scrutiny after investigators issued questionnaires to other online operators targeting the social network, MLex has learned. 

The requests for information are the first concrete indication that the European Commission is acting on the antitrust criticism and complaints that have been leveled in Europe against the social-media giant.

The questionnaires ask, among other things, how Facebook uses and shares data and about its marketplace, which was relaunched in 2016, MLex understands. They were issued late last month. 

The commission declined to comment. Facebook did not immediately reply to a request for comment. 

Facebook’s conduct has attracted growing scrutiny as it has grown into the world’s fifth most-valuable company, worth $550 billion.

In 2018 it was revealed that Facebook data had been passed on and used, without users’ consent, to Cambridge Analytica, a company that used the personal information to target right-wing political ads.

In terms of competition issues, the company has found itself at the center a debate among policymakers and agencies, who feel the current merger rules have failed to properly scrutinize certain tech mergers that may have been bad for competition.

Facebook’s 2012 acquisition of Instagram and its 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp are often cited in that context.

The commission later fined Facebook 125 million euros for providing misleading information to officials reviewing the WhatsApp decision, although it has said the ultimate unconditional approval was unaffected by the omission.

Germany’s competition authority has ordered Facebook to change the way it collects data in Germany, finding that the online advertising giant was using its position as the go-to social network to impose unfair data collection terms on users.

A Danish dating website has also called on the commission to take antitrust action against Facebook over the social network's alleged move to block its ads.

ABA 2019