The German court has termed the Facebook’s default privacy settings and use of personal data as “illegal”. This judgement was handed down by a Berlin Regional Court which said that Facebook’s default privacy settings violate the German’s consumer law. The court further added, it is illegal because the U.S. social media platform did not secure the informed consent of its users.
The Federation of German Consumers Organisation (VZBV) is based on the country’s Federal Data Protection Act. According to the Federal Data Protection Act, the user’s consent is a must in order to collect and use the personal data. The providers must provide an understandable information about nature and purpose of the use of data enabling the users to make informed choices. However, the Tech Giant failed to meet these requirements by making the users to automatically opt into features which it should not have.
Litigation Policy Officer at VZBV said, “Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy centre and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register. This does not meet the requirement for informed consent.”
Further VZBV added, “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.”
The court also ruled several Facebook’s terms of service including its “authentic name” policy and data transmission policies as unlawful. The court added that in total, eight of Facebook’s clauses were found to be illegal. This judgement was issued by the Berlin Regional Court on January 16 but it was publicly posted a copy of the ruling on its website on this Monday.
In response to the ruling, Facebook said that it would appeal the ruling. In a statement, Facebook said that it is making significant changes to its terms of service and data protection guidelines.
Facebook 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.”
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, said that they would “put the core privacy settings for Facebook in one place and make it much easier for people to manage their data.”