March 26, 2018 / 2:18 PM / 25 days ago

German cartel office investigates Facebook's use of data from partner websites

BERLIN, March 26 (Reuters) - Facebook’s use of data it culls from partner websites is under investigation in Germany, the head of its cartel office said, as its justice minister summoned executives from the under-fire social media network to a meeting over privacy concerns.

Cartel Office President Andreas Mundt told Tagesspiegel newspaper that users were largely unaware how much information flowed to the social network when they visited third-party websites with Facebook integration.

The office was working on the basis of possible abuses stemming from “the collection and assessment of data from third-party sources outside Facebook,” he said in an interview, extracts from which were published on Monday.

A Facebook spokesman gave no immediate comment.

The firm is at the centre of a storm over allegations that data from millions of its users was improperly used by consultants Cambridge Analytica to target U.S. and British voters in close-run elections.

In Germany, where memories of two 20th-century totalitarian surveillance states make privacy issues especially sensitive, Justice Minister Katarina Barley met with Facebook executives to air concerns.

The ministry has scheduled a news conference for Monday afternoon.

“Interfaces to other web pages allow data to flow to Facebook,” Mundt said. “That happens even if you don’t click the ‘Like’ button, but load a website with one embedded,” he added, saying users were often unaware of this.

The cartel office is already examining whether the network is abusing what Mundt called its “market-controlling position”.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt Editing by Michael Nienaber and John Stonestreet

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