EU Court Backs Antitrust Regulators Over Meta Privacy Breaches
The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) backed the German antitrust agency power to investigate Meta Platforms privacy breaches.
The ruling from the CJEU potentially hand antitrust authorities more leeway in Big Tech probes.
The case stemmed from a challenge raised by Meta after the German cartel office in 2019 ordered the social media giant to stop collecting users’ data without their consent, calling the practice an abuse of market power.
The primary issue was whether the German antitrust agency overstepped its authority by using its antitrust power to address data protection concerns, which are the remit of national data protection authorities.
Meta harvests user data for behavioural advertising, a business model common to Big Tech.
Meta, owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, challenged the finding, prompting a German Court to seek advice from the CJEU.
The CJEU judges regarding antitrust investigations said that, “it may be necessary for the competition authority of the member state concerned also to examine whether that undertaking's conduct complies with rules other than those relating to competition law.”
The CJEU, however, said antitrust regulators must take into consideration any decision or investigation by the competent supervisory authority pursuant to that regulation.
The German cartel office welcomed the ruling.
Head of German cartel office Andreas Mundt said, “Data is a decisive factor in establishing market power. The use of the very personal data of consumers by the large internet companies can also be abusive under antitrust law.”
Privacy activist Max Schrems, who had filed complaints against Meta, said the judgment will have a positive impact on his pending litigation with the company.
The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) also welcomed the ruling.
BEUC Deputy Director General Ursula Pachl said, “In a complex digitalised economy, more than ever we need authorities to think outside the box and to consider data protection.