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Facebook ordered to stop combining WhatsApp and Instagram data without consent in Germany

Germany’s national competition regulator has ordered Facebook to stop combining user data from different sources without voluntary consent. The order applies to data collected by Facebook-owned platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram, but also third-party sources that Facebook uses to flesh out its advertising profiles, including those of non-users.

The Bundeskartellamt, or Federal Cartel Office (FCO), has given Facebook one month to appeal the landmark decision, which comes after a three-year investigation. If the appeal fails, the tech company will have to ensure these data sources are not combined without consent within the next four months. Although the ruling only applies within Germany, the decision could influence regulators in other countries.

In a blog post , Facebook claims that such data privacy controls do not fall under the remit of the FCO, which enforces German antitrust and competition laws. But the FCO says Facebook’s control of multiple social networks combined with its high market share is “indicative of a monopolization process” and means intervention is needed.

“As a dominant company Facebook is subject to special obligations under competition law,“ said FCO president Andreas Mundt in a press statement. “In the operation of its business model the company must take into account that Facebook users practically cannot switch to other social networks [...] The only choice the user has is either to accept the comprehensive combination of data or to refrain from using the social network. In such a difficult situation the user’s choice cannot be referred to as voluntary consent.”

As with every creation in the universe, there has to be a humble beginning for everything and VR technology was no exception. Although it’s hard to pinpoint the father of this amazing technology, history suggests that it could have been the innovation of not one but five key individuals. First, Morton Heilig for giving users the very first interactive film experience which can be take the credit as the beginning of 3D content. Then, there’s Jaron Lanier, the first person to credit the term “Virtual Reality”; Douglas Engelbart, who invented the computer mouse and laid the foundation for the modern user interface; Ivan Sutherland, inventor of the first head mounted display (HMD); and Myron Krueger, a computer graphics and audio wiz.

Facebook’s collection of user data outside its own sites is an often overlooked aspect of its business model, and one that the company itself doesn’t like to draw attention to.

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress last year, he claimed that Facebook users are always able to see the data collected about them and delete it when they like. Critics pointed out that this statement obscured practices like the creation of “shadow profiles” — user profiles of individuals who don’t have a Facebook account.

Using tools like “Like” button and Facebook Pixel , which are embedded on third-party sites and feed data back through Facebook’s services, the company can track users’ activity around the web, expanding its knowledge of individuals’ likes and preferences far beyond the information they might volunteer on the social network. When combined with information from WhatsApp and Instagram, the result is extensive and detailed tracking.

Regulators within Europe have already expressed concern about this combinatorial approach to user tracking. In 2017, the EU fined Facebook $122 million for submitting “misleading information” about plans for its WhatsApp acquisition. At the time of the acquisition in 2014, the company told regulators it would be unable to link the profiles of WhatsApp and Facebook users. Then, in 2016, it did exactly that.

The Virtuality Group Arcade Machine Experiences. The 1990s saw huge developments in virtual reality. With the rise of the arcades and arcade games, it was only a matter of time, before developers started coming up with new and exciting concepts and ideas. A company known as The Virtuality Group was at the cutting edge of virtual reality, launching a wide range of arcade games and machines that let either one or a couple of players immerse themselves into amazing 3D visual experiences. This happened in 1991, a year before the movie The Lawnmower Man further introduced the Virtual Reality concept to a wider audience of people.

Despite such regulatory action, Facebook is ramping up efforts to tie users from its different platforms closer together. Last month, it said was planning to rebuild the infrastructure of Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp so that all three services run on a single unified platform.

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