Tag Archives: Germany

Germany Required Meta To Allow Users to Opt-Out Of Tracking

Germany’s Bundeskartellamt posted information about Meta (Facebook) introducing a new accounts center. From the news:

Meta has announced plans to introduce a new accounts center. The accounts center will allow Meta’s customers for the first time to make a largely free and informed decision about whether they want to use Meta’s services separately or in combined form. Using the services in combined form would allow them to use additional functionalities such as crossposting, where a post is simultaneously published across several social media outlets, but Meta would then use the combined data for advertising purposes…

…In particular, it remains to be clarified how users can be informed as correctly and neutrally as possible about the use and data processing consequences involved in Meta’s Business Tools and plugins (e.g. Facebook Login, “Like” button) in a central location and how they can consent to or reject the use of their data in a simple way, and under which exceptional circumstances data processing across accounts can be legal even without the user’s consent (e.g. for security purposes). Unless the required consent has been free and informed, it has to be requested again…

…The Bundeskartellamt was in continues talks with Meta regarding the implementation of its decision despite pending litigation of the original decision. Meta then introduced an accounts center and reviewed its data infrastructure. The accounts center allowed users for the first time to decide for themselves whether to combine their Meta service accounts (e.g. on Facebook and Instagram), the linking of accounts allowing Meta to also use the data combined across accounts to create advertising profiles and apply personalized advertising. The Bundeskartellamt considered this first accounts center to be seriously deficient. Neither did it inform customers in a neutral way nor were all relevant pieces of information shown in a transparent and easily accessible form.

In February 2023, Meta presented a plan to implement the Bundeskartellamt’s decision following intensive talks, which included a significantly modified accounts center that was discussed in detail with Bundeskartellamt. Meta made a number of changes to the accounts center in the process, which made the overall user journey significantly more transparent and comprehensible. …The wording was also changed that could have nudged users to combine their accounts. The wording was also changed to in greater detail what is actually meant (e.g. “personal data” instead of “information”)… and the process required to separate accounts was considerably simplified…

TechCrunch reported that Meta is not taking this step to boost user choice over its tracking and profiling – even to this qualified degree – of its own volition; the development follows a lengthy battle wit hGermany’s antitrust authority over the adtech giant’s so called ‘superprofiling’ of users which the FCO views as an “exploitative abuse” of its market power as the dominant player in social media, and therefore as an antitrust abuse it can enforce against it.

Based on all of this, it seems to me that Meta is going to have a harder time gathering the data of its users. Germany appears to have forced Meta to let it’s users know that they can choose to consent to, or reject, Meta’s collection of the user’s data.

Germany Shuts Down Illegal Data Center in Former NATO Bunker

The Associated Press reported that German investigators arrested seven people in connection with an illegal data processing center that was installed in a former NATO bunker. It was located in Traben-Trarbach, a town that is located near the Mosel River in western Germany.

According to the Associated Press, the German investigators believe the facility served a number of dark web sites. Among them were “Wall Street Market” (drugs, hacking tools, financial-theft wares), “Cannabis Road” (drugs), and “Orange Chemicals” (synthetic drugs). The authorities believe that a botnet attack on German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom, that happened in 2016, came from this data center.

Krebs on Security posted a drawing of the bunker. According to Krebs on Security, German police reportedly seized $41 million worth of funds allegedly tied to the markets (mentioned above), and more than 200 servers that were operating throughout the underground temperature controlled, ventilated and closely guarded facility. Krebs on Security also reported that German authorities seized at least two Web domains in the raid.

Deutsche Welle reported that in Germany, service providers cannot be prosecuted for hosting illegal websites unless it can be proven that they are aware of and supporting the illegal activity.

From what I’ve been reading about this, it appears that some of the people who were arrested, and some who are being investigated, are allegedly connected to other crimes beyond the illegal data processing center. If so, it seems likely that many people involved will end up with some legal consequences.

Lego Bridge

In the Germany city of Wuppertal urban artist Martin Heuwold, aka MEGX, has transformed a dull grey concrete railway bridge into a brightly coloured Lego construction.

Here’s the bridge as it originally appeared.

Original Bridge

And here it is after the reconstruction.

Lego Bridge

Of course, the bridge hasn’t really been rebuilt with super-sized Lego Duplo bricks but instead the brick-effect has been painted on. It’s very convincing, though. Regrettably the Lego bridge can only stay in place for four weeks.

Lego Bridge

All pictures courtesy of Martin Heuwold. There are more on his website.