Facebook privacy issues may not be competition matters: EU antitrust chief

The logo of Facebook is pictured on a window at new Facebook Innovation Hub during a media tour in Berlin, Germany, February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Facebook’s problems with European privacy regulators do not mean that the social network has breached the bloc’s competition rules, EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said on Friday.

“The German authority is concerned that Facebook may have forced its users to accept privacy terms that aren’t in line with the data protection rules,” Vestager said in the text of a speech to be delivered at a conference in Copenhagen.

“But as our German colleagues rightly point out, even if Facebook has broken those rules, that doesn’t automatically mean that it has also broken the competition rules as well,” she said.

The German government has been critical of Facebook in the past while political leaders and regulators have also complained that the world’s largest social network, with 1.6 billion monthly users, had been slow to tackle hate speech and anti-immigrant messages.

Facebook raised regulatory concerns last month when it loosened the privacy policy of WhatsApp, the world’s most popular mobile messaging application, prompting the chair of Europe’s leading group of privacy regulators to say that it would closely scrutinize the move. [nL8N1BA3O8]

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Philip Blenkinsop