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German court rules Facebook use of personal data illegal

15 February 2018

Vzbv said the social network would require "users' informed consent" in the future as a outcome.

Under privacy settings, some privacy settings - like location service - were pre-selected on new accounts.

The ruling comes from a Berlin regional court that was made last month but announced today by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV), which had filed the lawsuit against Facebook.

The court also said that Facebook did not provide a clear choice to users for other default settings, such as to share their location in chats, and it ruled against clauses that allowed Facebook to use information such as profile pictures for "commercial, sponsored, or related content". Informed consent is at the heart of the incoming GDPR regulation and Germany is one of the few countries which has adopted the European Union rules as national law ahead of the May 25 deadline.

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It also rejected several other claims against provisions in Facebook's privacy policy - which vzbv said it intends to appeal in the Berlin Appeals Court.

The court actually delivered its judgement in mid-January, but the ruling was only published on Monday. Facebook's ability to use individuals' names and profile pictures without the need to ask them or send their data to the USA were some of the privacy-related issues contained within these clauses.

The court agreed that the five default settings listed by the VZBV in its complaint were not valid as declarations of consent, and that eight clauses in Facebook's terms of service were invalid.

However, in the meantime, Facebook plans to update its data protection guidelines and its terms of service, largely to comply with upcoming GDPR laws. We work hard to ensure that our policies are clear and easy to understand, and that all aspects of the Facebook Service are in compliance with applicable law.

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The case was brought by the federation of German consumer organisations (VZBV) which said Facebook failed to provide its users with sufficient information, and also that people were automatically opted into features.

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.

AFP reports that under German law, personal information can only be collected and used by a company after they've obtained consent from the individual.

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German court rules Facebook use of personal data illegal