EU and U.K. launch the first antitrust probe into Facebook

The European Union and the U.K. launched the first in-depth formal antitrust investigations into Facebook on Friday, looking into whether the social networking giant’s use of advertiser and user data gives it an unfair advantage in the ads sector. 

The European Commission and the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority said that they will focus on Facebook Marketplace and will investigate whether Facebook misuses a trove of data gathered from around 7 million advertisers in order to gain illegal advantages to its own services. 

“Facebook collects vast troves of data on the activities of users of its social network and beyond, enabling it to target specific customer groups,” said the EU’s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager in a statement

“We will look in detail at whether this data gives Facebook an undue competitive advantage in particular on the online classified ads sector, where people buy and sell goods every day, and where Facebook also competes with companies from which it collects data.” 

The U.K.’s antitrust regulator added that it is also investigating whether Facebook is using advertiser data to provide similar benefits to its online dating service. The two watchdogs said they would coordinate their investigations.

“We intend to thoroughly investigate Facebook’s use of data to assess whether its business practices are giving it an unfair advantage in the online dating and classified ad sectors,” CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said in a statement.

A Facebook spokesman said its Marketplace and Dating services “operate in a highly competitive environment with many large incumbents. We will continue to cooperate fully with the investigations to demonstrate that they are without merit.”

Written by Jordan Bevan

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