According to the reports by The Wall Street Journal, the European Commission has launched a preliminary antitrust investigation against Facebook, suspecting the corporation of surveillance and elimination of potential competitors. The publication reports that the European regulator is currently investigating the statements of numerous companies that Facebook uses the personal data of its users to weed out competitors.
In particular, the European Commission is interested in "the changes Facebook has made to the software interfaces that allow application developers to access the corporation data, as well as the use of Onavo, an Israeli virtual private network application that the technology giant bought in 2013." An Israeli startup allegedly provided Facebook with data on the use of competing applications of its VPN clients, which gave Facebook information about competitors before they became threats to the hegemony of Mark Zuckerberg's company.
The European Commission began an investigation in December last year, requesting all documentation related to the two above topics. However, Facebook lawyers refused to comply with this requirement, saying that they would have to transfer millions of documents to the authorities, which could include personal information about the corporation's employees. Now the regulator is working on a new request, sources say.
If the European Commission succeeds in proving Facebook's guilt, the company faces a fine of up to 10% of its annual revenue. Based on the corporation's annual financial statements for 2019, the amount of the penalty may exceed € 7 billion.
Until recently, Silicon Valley companies were poorly regulated, while their ambitions and business grew. But in recent years, antitrust authorities have become seriously worried about the state of competition and the dominance of technology giants in the digital services market. The investigations against BigTech companies such as Facebook have been appearing all around the world with an increased frequency in the past years. Hopefully, this is a sign of an increasing understanding of the pressing need to regulate the new market, where the rules of competition have not been fully established as of yet.