Facebook found in violation of privacy laws according to new court ruling

Facebook has long struggled with concerns about its use of the personal information the more than one billion people on its platform readily upload to the site. While the company has made some concessions to privacy enthusiasts, the overall trend for the company has been toward even more data collection.

Public concern over the multinational corporation's control of their data has, of course, led to the prying eyes of governmental regulatory bodies, and a court in Germany this week has also found the company to be in violation of its privacy laws with regard to the default settings on the site.

The case was brought to the German courts by Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (VZBV, or the Federation of German Consumer Organisations), which argued the company was collecting users' data without providing them the necessary information.

As such, the settings for location sharing on its mobile app being turned on by default and the ability to find Facebook users' profiles by default on the social network's search facility were found to contravene German privacy law.

The Berlin regional court also ruled that eight of the clauses in the company's user agreement were far too broad to meet the legal requirements for consent. Facebook's ability to use individuals' names and profile pictures without the need to ask them or send their data to the U.S. were some of the privacy-related issues contained within these clauses.

Other points of contention between VZBV and Facebook were the social media giant's claim the use of its service was 'free' - VZBV argues the users pay for it with their data - and the company's insistence on the use of real names. On the former affair, the court sided with Facebook. With regard to the use of real names, the court ruled that the current clause in Facebook's user agreement pertaining to the matter was inadmissible, though a ruling on whether such a policy should be allowed at all was not given.

Both parties were not entirely satisfied with the rulings of the court and have decided to appeal the decisions they lost. A Facebook spokesperson had the following to say on the matter:

"We are reviewing this recent decision carefully and are pleased that the court agreed with us on a number of issues."

A wider rollout of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will also be coming into effect starting this May, which will force companies like Facebook to enforce more privacy-oriented policies with regard to personal data, and is likely to result in better protections for Facebook users overall.

Source: ZDNet

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