German court says Facebook use of personal data is illegal

Zuckerberg has made a big show of courting China's leadership in hopes of convincing Beijing to relax its ban on Facebook

A German court has ruled that Facebook's privacy settings and use of personal data violated consumer laws as it failed to obtain adequate consent when the information was collected. One preactivated setting on Facebook's smartphone app shared users' locations to the people they are chatting with, the court said.

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.

"Facebook hides data protection-unfriendly presets in its privacy center, without sufficiently informing it during registration", Heiko Dünkel, legal officer at VZBV, said.

"The judges ruled that all five of the default settings on Facebook that VZBV complained about are invalid", VZBV's statement.

The judgement was given by Berlin Regional Court on 16 January, but vzbv has oublished it recently.

VZBV said the court upheld its complaint that Facebook's default settings meant it hadn't gotten the adequate permissions from consumers to access their data.

Reuters reports that Facebook plans to appeal the decision.

"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", it said.

Commenting on Monday's verdict, a Facebook spokesperson said that the judges had agreed with the company's argument "in several aspects", adding many of its terms had changed "a lot" since the beginning of the trial. Additionally, the court held that Facebook needed to obtain explicit consent from its members before using their names and profile pictures in com mercialand sponsored materials. The Federal Data Protection Act [text, PDF] permits personal information to be recorded and used by a company only with explicit agreement from the individual. In the privacy settings, ticks were already placed in boxes that allowed search engines to link to the user's timeline. The association said it plans to file an appeal against the dismissed claims at the Court of Appeals in Berlin.

This week, a German court decided that Facebook's use of personal data is indeed illegal.

However, while she argued that Facebook's apps "have always been focused on giving people transparency and control", she did not specify in which ways the social network would step this up. In total, eight of Facebook's clauses were found to be illegal.

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