Facebook Illegally Used Personal Data In Germany, Court Says

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The court decided in favour of a German consumer rights group following its legal challenge against the U.S. social media giant, finding that Facebook collects data on its users, and signs them up to services, without giving enough information for them to give meaningful consent.

One concern highlighted by the consumer rights group was that, in Facebook's app for smartphones, a service was pre-activated that revealed the user's location to the person they were chatting to.

The Berlin regional court also ruled that eight of the clauses in the company's user agreement were far too broad to meet the legal requirements for consent. A total of five default settings of Facebook have been questioned by the organization in the case.

"Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy centre and does not provide sufficient information about this when users register", said Heiko Dünkel, Litigation Policy Officer at VZBZ.

Back in 2015, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) kicked off a lawsuit against Facebook due to the default settings and terms of service it presented to anyone creating an account.

Reuters reports that a German court has ruled that Facebook's use of user personal data is illegal as the company did not sufficiently secure consent from users.


The unanimous ruling marked the first decision by New York's Court of Appeals pertaining to the discovery of Facebook content. Amongst the offending clauses are those that give Facebook the right to transmit data to the USA and use personal data for commercial purposes.

Although the judgement was issued by Berlin Regional Court on January 16, the vzbv publicly posted a copy of the ruling on its website only this Monday. This meant that anyone could quickly and easily find personal Facebook profiles.

The court also ruled Facebook's authentic name policy illegal.

"We are working hard to ensure that our guidelines are unambiguous and easy to understand, and that the services offered by Facebook fully comply with prevailing laws", Facebook said in a statement.

Vzbv said it would also appeal some areas of the court's ruling, including its complaint that Facebook said it was a "free" app. Vzbv said users pay Facebook with their data, but the court disagreed.

The social media giant was already under scrutiny from Germany's competition authorities for its handling of users' personal data.

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