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Facebook probed by UK and Europe over how it gathers advertising data

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The European Union and Britain both launched competition probes on Friday into whether Facebook taps data from advertisers to unfairly squeeze rivals out of the online classifieds market.

The cases by the European Commission – the EU’s competition authority – and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are separate, but the two regulators said they are working closely together as they look at the data gathering used by the social media giant’s Marketplace service.

CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said investigators would assess whether Facebook’s business practices give it an unfair advantage in the online dating and classified ad sectors. “Any such advantage can make it harder for competing firms to succeed, including new and smaller businesses, and may reduce customer choice,” he said.

EU vice-president and competition chief Margrethe Vestager said that Facebook collected “vast troves of data” on users’ activity on its social network and beyond.

EU and UK regulators said they are working closely together as they look at the data gathering used by Mark Zuckerberg’s company (Photo: AFP/Mandel Ngan)

“We will look in detail at whether this data gives Facebook an undue competitive advantage in particular on the online classified ads sector, where people buy and sell goods every day, and where Facebook also competes with companies from which it collects data,” she added.

Officials will also look into whether Facebook’s single user log-in allows it to unfairly use data gathered across its social media, dating app and advertising platforms. “Facebook could, for instance, receive precise information on users’ preferences from its competitors’ advertisement activities and use such data in order to adapt Facebook Marketplace,” the European Commission said.

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Facebook has denied the charges. “We will continue to cooperate fully with the investigations to demonstrate that they are without merit,” the company said in a statement. “We are always developing new and better services to meet evolving demand from people who use Facebook. ‘Marketplace’ and ‘Dating’ offer people more choices and both products operate in a highly competitive environment with many large incumbents.”

The probe is the latest bid by Brussels to address alleged Big Tech bullying: companies like Apple, Amazon and Google are accused of leveraging their size and power in one area to muscle onto other market sectors. The Commission fined Facebook a €110m (£94m) four years ago, for misleading it over its WhatsApp takeover. However, this is just a fraction of what other US tech giants have been fined in recent years, with Google notching up €8bn (£6.8bn) in penalties.


All content in this article is for informational purposes only and in no way serves as investment advice. Investing in cryptocurrencies, commodities and stocks is very risky and can lead to capital losses.

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