Google, Facebook, Twitter face lawsuit over 'illegible, incomprehensible' privacy policies

Summary:A French consumer group is taking action over the three companies' refusal to alter their terms and conditions on privacy - including sending French users to documents in English.

A French consumer group has filed a lawsuit against Google, Facebook, and Twitter saying the companies' privacy policies are too complex for the average user to make sense of.

UFC-Que Choisir announced on Tuesday the suit had been filed with the Tribunal de Grande Instance, the French High Court in Paris, after months of negotiations between the advocacy organisation and the three web giants failed to yield any changes to their privacy policies.

UFC-Que Choisir demanded in June that the trio revise their the policies, saying they contained clauses that were unlawful or unfair.  The point at issue is the way the three companies collect, store, and exploit users' data — and that of their contacts — without their express consent, and without paying them anything for doing so.

"If the companies are getting greedy when it comes to data, they're on a diet when it comes to taking responsibility: they're abdicating all responsibility for their quality of service, which is provided "as is", and for the integrity of their data and content," UFC-Que Choisir said.

Despite lengthy negotiations with UFC-Que Choisir, Facebook, Google and Twitter's general terms of use still contain the clauses at issue, and the T&Cs themselves are "incomprehensible, illegible, filled with hyperlinks... and sometimes referring to pages in English", according to the group.

As a result, the group has decided to take legal action. "Faced with such abuse, UFC-Que Choisir has asked a French judge to order the removal or modification of the vast number of contentious clauses these companies impose," it added.

Until the judge rules on the matter, UFC-Que Choisir is asking consumers to sign a petition asking EU lawmakers to press ahead with proposed revisions to European data protection law, and to use anti-tracking tools when visiting the three sites.

Read more on privacy

Topics: Social Enterprise, EU, Legal, Security


Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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