German Court Rules Facebook’s Use Of Personal Data Illegal
February 13th, 2018
In a landmark judgment delivered on Monday, Berlin regional Court stated that Facebook’s default privacy settings and use of personal data are against German consumer law.
With the help of evidence, the court found that without citing any reason or providing accurate informing to its members, Facebook uses their personal data. “Facebook opted users into features which it should not have,” said The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) that brought the suit.
▪️ Default privacy settings require users’ informed consent.
▪️ ‘Real-name’ clause and other terms and conditions are unlawful.
Full press release in English (pdf): https://t.co/7ODhuluZRt
— Verbraucherzentrale (@vzbv) February 12, 2018
As per the statement of VZBV, “In the Facebook app for smartphones, for example, a location service was pre-activated that reveals a user’s location to people they are chatting to. In the privacy settings, ticks were already placed in boxes that allowed search engines to link to the user’s timeline. This meant that anyone could quickly and easily find personal Facebook profiles.”
“Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy center and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register. This does not meet the requirement for informed consent,” according to a ruling copy posted by Litigation policy officer at the VZBV site.
Further, the Berlin court agreed with VZBV’s complaint that five default settings were void as declarations of assent. The German language judgment was actually handed down in mid-January but was made public on Monday.
Other than this, eight clauses in Facebook’s terms of service were declared as invalid by the court. These terms allow Facebook to transmit data to the US and utilize private data for commercial purposes. The court even ruled that FB’s “authentic name” policy is unlawful because earlier that policy obliged users to use their “real names” on the site, but after an alteration in that area, it allows them to use any names. This change has led to an increase in the number of fake accounts.
The verdict came at the backdrop of Big Tech facing probe over its management of sensitive personal data that facilitates it to easily micro-target online advertising.
FB stand and appeal
Facebook which has over 2 billion users worldwide said, “We are working hard to ensure that our guidelines are clear and easy to understand and that the services offered by Facebook are in full accordance with the law.”
The social networking site also promised to fundamentally update its privacy settings and term of services, saying the work would prepare it for the introduction in a sweeping set of laws governing data use across the EU i.e. Europe of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
In addition to this, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg announced the changes by emphasizing on the note, “They would put the core privacy settings for Facebook in one place and make it much easier for people to manage their data.”
In a provisional update on an investigation into Facebook, The Federal Cartel Office said, “It has already objected to the way FB gains access to third-party data when an account is opened.”
According to a concern highlighted by the consumer rights group was that the location of smartphone users using FB app was revealed to the person they were chatting to.