Facebook Threatened by German Consumer Group

By: David Myer, ZDNet Email
By: David Myer, ZDNet Email

Facebook faces yet more privacy woes in Germany, after a consumer rights group threatened to take it to court over its recently launched App Center.

The Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (VZBV) has already inflicted body blows on the social network over the terms of its Friend Finder service, and now it is promising to return to the fray if Facebook doesn't make the privacy implications of its apps more apparent to users.

As with most apps, Facebook's can suck in various types of user information, from contact details and gender to chat access and lists of friends.

The problem, according to the consumer protection group, is in the "non-exhaustive" information that the App Center shows in small grey writing before the user chooses to click "play game", "send to mobile" or "visit website".

The VZBV said on Monday (statement in German) that Facebook was breaking European data protection law by not explicitly inviting the user to give their consent.

The group said it has warned Facebook that it will launch a court case if the social network does not correct this situation by 4 September.

Facebook told ZDNet on Tuesday that it was looking into the matter, but did not have a full response just yet.

Germany tends to give companies such as Facebook and Google a hard time, as the country's data protection regulators adopt a relatively strict interpretation of European law.

Earlier this month, Hamburg's privacy czar Johannes Caspar reopened a probe into Facebook's facial recognition technology. In March, a Berlin court ordered Facebook to stop putting users' photos into the ads it runs on its site without explicit permission.

Meanwhile, privacy complaints from German citizens have forced both Google and Microsoft to stop photographing street scenery for their mapping products.

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