Court critical of German curb on Facebook data gathering

DUESSELDORF, March 24 (Reuters) - A German court on Wednesday criticised curbs on data collection imposed on Facebook by the country’s antitrust watchdog, in an indication that it may find in favour of the social network’s appeal against the two-year-old order.

“We criticise the decision of the Federal Cartel Office,” Juergen Kuehnen, the presiding judge at the Higher Regional Court in Duesseldorf, told a hearing.

The cartel office ordered Facebook in February 2019 to curb its data collection practices, saying that the world’s largest social media company had abused its market dominance to gather information about its users without their consent.

Facebook appealed that decision and, in the last significant development in the case, the German Federal Court reinstated the restrictions last June pending a resolution of the high-stakes legal battle.

The case has thrown up questions over whether personal data protection - a hot-button issue in Germany - is a matter properly addressed under competition law or whether it would be better covered by the European Union’s privacy rules. (Reporting by Matthias Inverardi, Writing by Douglas Busvine, editing by Emma Thomasson)