The Italian Competition Authority Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM), more commonly known as the Italian Completion Authority and the country’s antitrust regulator, announced a fine of 7 million euros against Facebook on grounds of misleading conduct on data protection on Wednesday. It was alleged that the US social media giant did not properly inform its users about how it collects and uses their data for commercial purposes.
Facebook had earlier been fined 5 million euros in November 2018 for resorting to unfair commercial practices.
In a statement, the AGCM said, “Facebook Ireland Ltd. and Facebook Inc. failed to comply with the warning to remove the unfair practice on the use of user data and did not publish the corrective statement requested by the Authority. They still do not provide immediate and clear information on the collection and use of user data for commercial purposes.”
The authority added, “This is information that the consumer needs to decide whether or not to subscribe to the service, given the economic value that Facebook places on data provided by the user, which represents payment for the use of the service.” It maintained its stand that the platform deceived new users by not informing them “immediately and adequately” how it collects and uses their data for commercial purposes.
“This is information that the consumer needs to decide whether to join the service, in light of the economic value for Facebook of the data provided by the user, which represents payment for the use of the service,” the statement read.
A Facebook spokesperson said, “We note the Italian Competition Authority’s announcement today, but we await the Council of State decision on our appeal against the Authority’s initial findings. Facebook takes privacy extremely seriously and we have already made changes, including to our Terms of Service, to further clarify how Facebook uses data to provide its service and to provide tailored advertising.” The spokesperson added that Facebook had changed its terms of service to clarify how it makes money – by charging businesses and other organizations to display ads.
Initially, Facebook was fined and ordered to publish a corrected statement on data policies on “the homepage of the company’s website for Italy, on the Facebook app and on the personal page of each registered Italian user”. Wednesday’s fine came after the platform failed to comply with the order.
“The current investigation has ascertained that the two companies (Facebook Ireland Ltd. and Facebook Inc.) have not published the corrective statement and have not ceased the established unfair practice”, the AGCM added. It also said that the information provided by Facebook was “generic and incomplete” and did not distinguish between when data was used for personalizing Facebook services, or for advertising campaigns.