German court rules Facebook data use, privacy settings illegal

German court rules Facebook data use, privacy settings illegal

A regional court in Germany has found Facebook’s default privacy settings and use of personal data it collects from users to be in violation of consumer protection laws.

The Berlin court found that Facebook did not provide users enough information for them to understand how their data is being collected and that any agreements users signed did not constitute meaningful consent.

VZBV, the German privacy advocacy group that filed the suit, argued that data collection agreements that Facebook users are automatically opted into don’t give users enough notice about what they’re agreeing to.

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“Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy center and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register,” said Heiko Dünkel, a litigation policy officer at the VZBV. “This does not meet the requirement for informed consent.”

The court ruled that several Facebook default data sharing settings did not count as consent from the user. It also found clauses in Facebook’s terms of service to be invalid, including its policy of requiring users to use their “authentic names” on the website.

Facebook told The Guardian that it intended 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,” the company said in a statement.

The social media company is also dealing with scrutiny from the national government in Germany and the European Union over its data collection and privacy policies.

Facebook had previously said that it will be making significant changes to its privacy settings to conform with the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation, laws covering data use across the EU.

“We’re rolling out a new privacy center, globally, that will put the core privacy settings for Facebook in one place and make it much easier for people to manage their data,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said of the changes in January.