Italy’s Competition Authoity has fined Facebook €7m ($8.42m) for not complying with changes to data practices ordered by the anti-trust authority in November 2018

Back in November 2018  Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM) found the social media giant was misleading users registering on to its platform by not informing them of the commercial intent underlying the service, emphasising instead that it is free.The company has appealed that order and an outcome is still awaited.

In addition, the anti-trust watchdog considered the information provided by Facebook was generic and incomplete and did not adequately distinguish between the use of data necessary for personalisation of the service, for socialisation between users, and its use for targeted advertising campaigns.

As a result, AGCM fined Facebook €5m in November 2018, prohibited the further use of the  practice and ordered publication of an amendment statement on the company’s Italian website’s homepage, the Facebook app and the personal page of each registered Italian user.

The follow up investigation found the company has not done so, though it has removed a claim the platform is free.

“Immediate and clear information is not yet provided on the collection and use of user data for commercial purposes,” Garante said. “According to the authority, this is information that the consumer needs to decide whether to join the service, in light of the economic value assumed for Facebook by the data transferred by the user, which constitute the payment itself for the use of the service.”

A company spokesperson said: ““We note the Italian Competition Authority’s announcement today, but we await the Council of State decision on our appeal against the authority’s initial findings.

“Facebook takes privacy extremely seriously and we have already made changes, including to our terms of service, to further clarify how Facebook uses data to provide its service and to provide tailored advertising.”

The Council of State hearing took place last September and an outcome is awaited. The key issues were whether Facebook was right to describe its services as free, and whether data was shared with third-party websites and apps without users’ consent.

Following AGCM’s initial findings, the company has removed the statement “Facebook is free and always will be” from its homepage to avoid any potential for confusion.