Facebook’s loss is privacy’s gain.
A German court has decided against Facebook in a case that began in 2015. The case was based on the social media giant’s terms of service and default privacy settings. The complaint was filed by the Federation of German Consumer Organisations, (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband, or VZBV) and is not the first time they have taken Facebook to task.
The court has ruled that Facebook is breaking German data protection law. The issue lies within the fact that Facebook shares user locations, and user’s Facebook accounts are retrievable through search engines. The German court found that users are not receiving a full accounting of what data Facebook is collecting and how it is being used, and therefore, not being given the tools to make an informed decision. A total of 8 clauses within Facebook’s terms of services were found to not meet the legal standards in Germany.
Facebook, while stating that they have already changed a number of policies since the court case began, will be appealing the decision. But the victor VZBV will also be appealing the case. There are items which the case did not rule against Facebook, which VZBV believes should not be allowed under current German law.
Among these items, is Facebook’s real name policy. VZBV states that “Providers of online services must allow users to use their services anonymously, for example, by using a pseudonym”. Additionally, they take issue with Facebook being called “free” and user’s privacy and data is are the currency being traded for Facebook’s services.
This will surely take years to finalize, and with the upcoming General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) coming into effect in May across the E.U. this case may be deemed unnecessary. While data is the gold being mined by today’s tech companies, it is a relief to see that some are fighting to protect our privacy.