Facebook's real-name policy is ILLEGAL according to new court ruling


A German consumer rights group said on Monday that a court had found Facebook's use of personal data to be illegal because the US social media platform did not adequately secure the informed consent of its users.

The court found another eight clauses in Facebook's terms of use to be invalid, including the pre-formulated declarations of consent which allowed Facebook to use the name and profile picture of users for commercial, sponsored or related content and to transfer their data to the USA.

The Vzbv consumer group successfully argued that five of the app's services were switched on by default, with the relevant privacy settings "hidden".

The court dismissed a number of other allegations against Facebook as part of the same trial and the defendant is now planning to appeal the sentence deeming its privacy practices illegal.

The Vzbv group reported Monday that its case against Facebook - which was initially brought in 2015 - had been partially successful.

The court agreed that Facebook had not done enough to alert people to the fact that it had pre-ticked several privacy settings.

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Facebook intends to appeal, but believes that planned changes to the app will ensure it obeys the law.

While the ruling was handed down in the middle of last month, the court's judgement has only been made public today.

"Facebook hides data protection-unfriendly presets in its privacy center, without sufficiently informing it during registration", says Heiko Dünkel, Legal Officer at vzbv. Amongst the offending clauses are those that give Facebook the right to transmit data to the USA and use personal data for commercial purposes. "That is not sufficient for informed consent".

Search engines get a link to the participants' activity history by default, making it easy for anybody online to stumble across things like profiles and account photos. However, although the judges ruled the clause inadmissible, they said it remained unclear whether it is acceptable for Facebook to have a real-names policy as such.

GDPR will require all companies, both within the European Union and those dealing with European Union citizens, to be clear and explicit in their data collection policies, meaning that pre-ticked or woolly consent boxes will no longer be adequate for obtaining permission to use someone's information.

Under German law, personal information can only be recorded and used by a company with explicit agreement from the individual.