German competition watchdog to rule on Facebook

In January, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg defended his company in the international media, saying its advertising-based business model required collecting personal data. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 February 2019
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German competition watchdog to rule on Facebook

  • Facebook is a dominant player in Germany with 30 million users
  • Officials have been looking into Facebook since mid-2016, charging that it uses other networks to collect masses of information about users without their knowledge

FRANKFURT AM MAIN: Germany’s competition watchdog is set to rule Thursday on whether Facebook abused its dominant position in social media to collect excessive data and could even ban the site’s “Like” buttons from other webpages.
Officials have been looking into Facebook since mid-2016, charging that the Silicon Valley giant uses other networks — like subsidiaries Instagram and Whatsapp, as well as Twitter and other websites — to collect masses of information about users without their knowledge.
That data then provides the foundation for Facebook’s advertising profits.
Federal Cartel Office (FCO) chief Andreas Mundt will announce his findings in a press conference at 10:00 am (0900 GMT) in Bonn.
There is no danger Facebook will suffer swingeing fines like those imposed by Brussels on rival Google over competition misdeeds.
But the social network could be ordered to update its terms of use in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, or even see some of its functions banned.
Media have reported that the “Like” buttons strewn around webpages — used to collect browsing data even when people are not using the Facebook website — could be forbidden.
With almost 30 million users in Germany — 23 million of them logging in daily — Facebook is a dominant player, the cartel authority said in preliminary findings published in December 2017.
The firm “is abusing this dominant position by making the use of its social network conditional on its being allowed to limitlessly amass every kind of data generated by using third-party websites and merge it with the user’s Facebook account,” it said in a statement.
Such “third-party” sources include Whatsapp and Instagram’s chat features, as well as Internet sites and mobile apps that collect data about users’ activities.
“This even happens when, for example, a user does not press a ‘Like button’ but has called up a site into which such a button is embedded,” Mundt said.
“Users are unaware of this.”
The FCO says users are obliged to accept Facebook’s terms of use as a whole, losing control over the use of their personal data.
That constitutes a breach of European data protection rules, the preliminary finding stated.
At the time, Facebook told AFP that the initial report “paints an inaccurate picture” of the firm, stressing that Facebook was not a dominant company and that it complied with European data protection laws.
Since then Facebook has suffered a nightmarish 2018, battered by a torrent of outcries and scandals.
It was accused of offering a platform for manipulating voters and failing to protect user data.
As it celebrated its 15th birthday, the social network had to contend with the global Cambridge Analytica scandal of March 2018.
In that case, data belonging to tens of millions of Facebook users was harvested by the British company through an online personality quiz.
The same consultancy worked on both the Leave campaign in the UK’s Brexit referendum of 2016 and on Donald Trump’s election campaign in the same year.
The EU introduced its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May last year, intensifying regulators’ focus on Facebook.
In January, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg defended his company in the international media, saying its advertising-based business model required collecting personal data.
“We don’t sell people’s data” to other firms, he insisted in an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal.


Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

Updated 16 February 2019
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Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry inaugurates Arab News Pakistan bureau

  • New office will be hub for Asian operation of paper and builds on relationship with community and its digital generation
  • Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Minister of Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has officially inaugurated Arab News Pakistan bureau in the country’s capital.

Chaudhry was the chief guest at the occasion and several prominent Pakistani media personalities and Arab News staff also attended the launch ceremony.

Standing side by side with Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas, who is in Pakistan as part of the media delegation accompanying the royal visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Arab News Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani, Chaudhry cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the office.

“I am very happy for two reasons: The perception was building that the newspapers were not coming (to Pakistan), so once an international publication like Arab News (has come here) it certainly gives us a huge boost.”

Chaudhry described how the relationship between the nations was becoming stronger, particularly with the growth of Pakistan’s voice in the Middle East.

‘Secondly, I think this is an era where Pakistan is playing a very important role in the Middle East and to have such a major Middle Eastern publication coming to Pakistan itself shows the kind of importance Pakistan has of the Middle East and vice versa, we are very happy to have you here.’

Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas thanked the Pakistani information minister for his presence at the inauguration and for the efforts of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to help facilitate the newspaper’s operations in Islamabad. 

“The inauguration of our Islamabad bureau a year after the launch of our local digital edition is an indicator of our commitment to Pakistan and our determination to help create a better understanding of Saudi Arabia and the region,” said Abbas. 

“Ever since its establishment in 1975, Arab News has had a special relationship with the massive and incredibly loyal Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia. Today we inaugurate this bureau in Islamabad to ensure a continued connection with the community and establish a relationship with a new more digital and highly connected generation,” he added. 

Asia Bureau Chief Baker Atyani said that the new office would be a hub not only for the Arab News Pakistan edition but also for the entire Asian operation of the paper. “We currently have reporters across Pakistan as well as nine other Asian countries and with the help, hard work and dedication of our team at the Islamabad bureau we hope not only to better manage our operation but to grow further in Asia as well.” 

Arab News launched its online Pakistan edition www.arabnews.pk in February last year as part of its global digital expansion plans. The project is the first of many new international editions planned by the Riyadh-based newspaper. 

Arab News is part of the regional publishing giant Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG).