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A German court just ruled that Facebook illegally uses personal data

A German court just ruled that Facebook illegally uses personal data
[Photo: courtesy of Facebook]

A regional court in Berlin said Monday that Facebook isn’t doing a good enough job of telling its users how it uses their personal data, and ruled the collection of such data illegal, Reuters reported.

A German consumer advocacy group, the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzvb), said the court had decided that several of Facebook’s default security settings were in breach of the law.

“Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy center,” Heiko Duenkel, the vzvb’s litigation policy officer, told Reuters, “and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register.”

The vzvb had argued in court that Facebook, by default, always gave away a user’s location to anyone he or she was chatting with–and that it made it possible for search engines to link to users’ profiles. The organization believes the company doesn’t do enough to help users understand their privacy settings and how to modify them.

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. Also, in the privacy settings, ticks were already placed in boxes that allowed search engines to link to the user’s timeline, meaning anyone would be able quickly and easily to find a user’s profile.

Facebook says it’s appealing the judgement, and that it has already updated many of the settings in its privacy center.

Last month, in advance of new European regulations governing companies’ use of personal data, Facebook unveiled what it calls its privacy principles for the first time. It also said it would soon be launching a fully fledged privacy center.