A German consumer advocacy group has scored a win against Facebook over the way it uses consumer data.
The Berlin Regional Court has ruled Facebook’s default settings and some of its terms of service and privacy policies are in breach of consumer law.
The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (abbreviated from German as VZBV) filed the lawsuit against Facebook and published the judgement on its website last week.
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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.
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. Informed consent is at the heart of the incoming GDPR regulation and Germany is one of the few countries which has adopted the EU rules as national law ahead of the May 25 deadline.
“Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy centre and does not provide sufficient information about this when users register,” said Heiko Dünkel, Litigation Policy Officer at VZBZ. “This does not meet the requirement for informed consent.”
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,” Facebook said.
The judges ruled five of Facebook’s default settings were invalid declarations of consent, saying there was no guarantee consumers would know they were there. For example, a location service in the Facebook app was pre-activated that revealed a user’s location to people they were chatting to and in the privacy settings, boxes were already ticked to allow search engines to link to a user’s timeline.
VZBV also lost several points and also plans to appeal.
The group argued the claim “Facebook is and always will be free” is misleading because consumers pay for the service with their data. But the court didn’t agree with their interpretation of the transaction.