German court rules Facebook use of personal data and privacy settings illegal

Mid-January, a German regional court in Berlin ruled against Facebook’s default privacy settings and use of personal data. It was found that Facebook does not provide its users enough information on the personal data it collects and uses for them to render meaningful consent. The court also ruled that Facebook’s real name policy is illegal and that its users must be allowed to sign up for the service under pseudonyms in order to comply with a decade-old privacy law. Couple of days after making the ruling public, the Federation of German Consumer Organisation (VZBV), which filed the lawsuit against Facebook, published press info with a breakdown of the ruling. Litigation policy officer at the VZBV, Heiko Duenkel, stated: ‘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.’ Days after the Berlin court ruled agains Facebook, according to the media, this social media network stated their intentions to overhaul its privacy settings in order to prepare for the upcoming European General Data Protection Regulation (DGPR). Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, announced the changes, saying they plan to: ‘put the core privacy settings for Facebook in one place and make it much easier for people to manage their data’. According to Reuters, Facebook’s spokesperson said it will appeal the ruling, however it will make changes to comply with European Union privacy laws coming into effect in June 2018: ‘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’.