Italian regulator fines Facebook €7m over data practices

17 Feb 2021274 Views

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The competition watchdog has now fined the company twice over alleged failures to improve and clarify its treatment of user data.

Italy’s competition authority has slapped Facebook with another fine, this time for €7m claiming the company has failed to implement new measures around user data.

The regulator, AGCM, levied the fine against Facebook Ireland and Facebook Inc, the main parent company, for not communicating to users how data collected is used. AGCM had told Facebook to implement changes in 2018.

It said that Facebook did not “immediately and adequately” inform users what data it would collect and how it would use this data for commercial purposes when signing up. It said there was no clear distinction between the use of data gathered to personalise the service for each user and the use of data gathered for targeted advertising campaigns.

The €7m fine is the latest from the Italian authority against Facebook. In 2018, the regulator issued its initial €5m fine over this matter and ordered the company to make it clearer to existing users how and why data is collected.

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“They still do not provide immediate and clear information on the collection and use of user data for commercial purposes,” AGCM said.

Facebook said it has already made changes relevant to the issues that the watchdog flagged and updated its terms of service to reflect that. It said it will appeal the Italian authority’s decision.

The fine amounts of €5m and €7m are small fry for Facebook and its annual revenues of $85bn but it’s part of an ever-growing trend in regulatory scrutiny whether its in data protection or competition.

In the US, the social media company is staring down two antitrust lawsuits, which are putting the its acquisition strategy and how it responds to competitors under the microscope. In Europe, the EU’s Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act were presented last year, which will place tighter controls on tech giants.

In Australia the company is in a spat with the government over a new legal code that would force the social media platform to remunerate news publishers for content it uses.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin

editorial@siliconrepublic.com