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Italian competition authority fines Facebook €10m for misleading personal data use

The AGCM labelled the social network’s commercial use of subscribers’ data as “unfair”.

Background: The Italian competition authority (AGCM) opened an investigation in April 2018 on the information provided by Facebook at point of registration, and the exchange of personal data with third parties every time a user accesses other websites/apps, for which there was only an opt-out option. This amounted to possible violations of the country’s Consumer Code.

How did it end? The AGCM has now concluded that Facebook misleads consumers into registering on the platform, while not adequately informing them of the commercial purposes for which their data will be used. Facebook also carries out an “aggressive practice”, exerting undue influence on registered consumers. The significant restrictions of use faced by those who opt-out of data collection induce users to keep the pre-selected default choices.

What next? Facebook will have to pay a fine of €10m, and to publish an amending declaration on its website and app.

Why is it important? The ruling questions Facebook’s very business practices, arguing consumers are not adequately informed and not given a real choice when authorising use of their data. Strikingly, it is grounded on consumer law rather than data protection law pre-GDPR – hence the hefty fine. If more regulators take a similar approach, Facebook may have to be much more explicit with users rather than advertising its platform as ‘free’.