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Meta VR remains under antitrust watch in Germany • CableFree TV

The German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) takes responsibility for Meta unlinking its VR headsets from its social media accounts, a change of direction the company announced back in Augustwhen he started rolling out meta accounts and meta horizon profiles, stating that these accounts could be used to log into his virtual reality products instead of logging into Facebook and Instagram (while leaving the latter options to the user’s choice).

However, despite receiving this concession from the Meta, Bundeskartellamt does not stop exploring its virtual reality offerings. The company said today that it wants to monitor how the tech giant is presenting these account choices to VR users – hence it is carefully looking into the type of choice architecture (and/or dark patterns) that Meta is deploying – and also said it is monitoring how Meta proposes to combine user data from different services.

This is particularly interesting as the German regulator hopes to formally share data between Meta VR products and other social services in the near future.

But, judging by the comments made today, it seems that he has already managed to achieve a temporary partial separation.

The background here is that the FCO has a separate calling the so-called “super-profiling” of users in Metawhereby the company combines usage data from various services and associates it with a single user ID to flesh out even more detailed profiles for ad targeting purposes — a surveillance-based, privacy-hostile business model that the German competition regulator finds offensive and seeks to block with early 2019.

Meta has challenged the FCO’s order that suspended enforcement in an appeals process, and it is now awaiting a ruling from the European Union’s highest court, which could be made next year, either unblocking the order or overturning it.

Bundeskartellamt Today’s press release notes that the extent to which “such data processing is permissible” is a “living topic of discussion” between him and Meta, including as a result of the aforementioned ECJ litigation.

“Until this matter is clarified, Meta will, with a few exceptions, store the data of users with a separate Meta account that is generated while they use Meta Quest headsets, separately from data collected from other Meta services,” said the FCO. adds.

The German competition watchdog launched a separate investigation into Meta’s plan to link Facebook accounts to Oculus (as the company and its VR business were called at the time) back in December 2020 — stating that he is concerned that linking access to his virtual reality products to his social network may constitute a prohibited abuse of dominance.

It’s probably no coincidence that Meta’s decision to change course and roll out separate accounts for its VR users came just a few short months after the FCO completed yet another process confirming Tech giant is subject to a special anti-competitive abuse regime, made possible by a 2021 German law update, meaning Meta will face tighter antitrust scrutiny from the FCO over the next five years. (The meta has not challenged this designation.)

On the VR issue, the FCO writes that Meta “expressed interest in amicably resolving the Facebook/Oculus issue” – before introducing the Meta Account in late August 2022, which it states “allows users to use the Quest 2 and Quest Pro headsets without an account.” Facebook or Instagram posts.

Bundeskartellamt made it clear that during the headset customization process, users should be allowed to decide as freely and without influence as possible whether to use the headsets alone or in combination with other metaservices,” notes MFA, implying that he put pressure on Meta. for her to adjust her sentences to remove the manipulative nudges.

It is expected that after appropriate adjustments, especially regarding user dialogue, the Quest 2 and Quest Pro headsets will soon be available in Germany,” he adds.

Pan-European ex ante competition reform, Digital Markets Act (DMA), will come into effect for the entire block next year – also imposes prior obligations on the most influential “gatekeeper” Internet giants, with Meta being a likely candidate for the role of underlying platform service manager under the DMA and subject to additional restrictions on how it can operate that are intended to promote competition and justice. Thus, the operational loop of the Meta empire in Europe continues to tighten.

Commenting on today’s announcement, FCO President Andreas Mundt wrote:

“The digital ecosystem built by Meta with a very large user base makes the company a key player in social media. Meta is also an important player in the growing VR market. Competition in these two sectors could be seriously hampered if only Facebook or Instagram members could use virtual reality headsets. Meta responded to our concerns and offered Quest Points users the option to create a separate Meta account as a workaround. While we welcome this development, we will not drop the proceedings today. We will now continue to track the actual design of user options, as well as issues related to the combination and handling of user data from various metaservices. This case shows that section 19a of the German Competition Act (GWB), a new tool for more effective monitoring of large digital companies, allows us to effectively address competition issues in practice.”

By Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org