Break Facebook’s dominance, German data czar urges

Europe should force Facebook and other social media giants to open up their platforms to rivals more committed to safeguarding personal information, Germany’s top regulator on data protection told Handelsblatt.

By Heike Anger and Dietmar Neuerer

Europe should tackle the dominance of social media giants like Facebook by forcing them to open themselves up to other data services, Germany’s new data protection commissioner, Ulrich Kelber, said in an interview.

Kelber, on the job since last month, said requiring firms to make their platforms available to rivals would help nurture competitors that offered more data protection.

“I propose requiring communications platforms like WhatsApp and other social media platforms to open themselves up to links with other services, meaning interoperability,” Kelber said. “From a data protection point of view, breaking up the monopolies would be very valuable. By committing the big providers to be interoperable, new data protection friendly competitors would have a better chance, for example.”

Kelber, whose office can force companies or government agencies to change they way they process people’s personal information, added that data protection could act as a quality seal for consumers, making innovations in data protection friendly services more interesting.

“It would be best to regulate this at the EU level. The European market is big enough to enforce that,” he said. Germany could take the lead and drive the idea forward in EU bodies. “A Bundestag decision on this would also be a strong signal.”