BRUSSELS – The European Union and the UK have launched antitrust investigations into Facebook’s use of advertising data in its classifieds business, investigations that could force Facebook to change its business model in addition to hefty fines.
The European Commission and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority are investigating whether Facebook is using data from advertisers to compete with them.
The opening of the first antitrust investigation by EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on the world’s largest social network marks her latest battle with one of the US tech giants.
Vestager has fined Alphabet unit Google more than 8 billion euros (9.7 billion US dollars) and is also investigating Amazon and Apple.
Vestager will grow Facebook’s vast wealth of data from the nearly 7 million companies that advertise on Facebook.
“We will examine in detail whether this data gives Facebook an unjustified competitive advantage, particularly in the area of online classified ads, where people buy and sell goods every day and where Facebook also competes with companies from which it collects data,” she said.
“In today’s digital economy, data shouldn’t be used in ways that distort competition,” said Vestager.
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority also announced its own investigation into whether the network is abusing its dominant position in social media or digital advertising by collecting and using data.
Facebook announced that it would work fully with the EU. and British investigation “to show that it is unfounded”.
It said its “marketplace and matchmaking offer people more choice, both products operate in a highly competitive environment with many large established vendors.”