At the end of last year, the Italian Authority for the competition in the marked has closed the investigations running since April 2018 against Facebook Ireland and its parent company Facebook Inc. for alleged violations of the consumers code by issuing a fine to the company of 10 Million Euros.
According to the Italian Authority, the social media owners committed a breach of the Articles 21 and 22 of the Consumer code due to their unfair practices that has deceptively driven the users to provide their personal data during the registration to the Facebook platform, without previously and clearly informing them of the use of their data for commercial purposes by the platform managers. It appears that Facebook, at the moment of the user subscription, was emphasizing the free from charges feature of the service rather that clearly informing the users that their data would be used for further purposes that would imply an income for Facebook. In this way, the consumers would be lead to take a commercial decision based on misleading information and lack of transparency. Specifically, Facebook did not, according to the Authority, clearly specify which were the data to be provided by the consumers for the purpose of the use of the platform and which ones, instead would have had specific purposes of creating targeted advertisements.
Beside the violations mentioned above, the Authority has also identified the breach of other two Articles of the Consumers Code, Articles 24 and 25 related to aggressive commercial practices. The breaches ascribed to Facebook concern the undue influence to registered users that is due by the pre-selection of Facebook of some settings to have the “Active Platform” option pre-set. This option enables the users to access external apps and websites with their Facebook profile and at the same time enables the transfer of users personal data without their previous explicit and informed consent. By setting the option as “active” by default, Facebook is preventing the users to actively choose and agree to the transmission of their data to external parties, furthermore, for commercial purposes.
As a further measure to protect the consumers, the Authority has imposed to Facebook (according to Art: 27.8 of the Consumer Code) to publish a clarification note addressing the issue to their website and app.