Facebook threatened by German consumer group over App Center privacy info

Facebook threatened by German consumer group over App Center privacy info

Summary: The group says it will take the social network to court if it does not, by 4 September, make users explicitly consent to signing away their data before they download Facebook apps.


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.

Facebook's recently launched App Center is under scrutiny in Germany.

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.

Topics: Privacy, Social Enterprise

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • Is FB really the issuce?

    This from the country that still requires people to register with the local authorities, their name, family, date of birth, religion, profession and employer each time they change their home address.
    Michael Farmer
    • what's facebook's trip

      Looks like fb is messing with the wrong country. fb pushes the privacy issue way too far. As big and as rich as fb is one would think they would draw a line somewhere not push the boundaries of what is legal. fb should protect the people who line their pockets and make fb a good experience instead ofweasel and squirm their way deep into people's privacy. It's uncalled for. Germany doesn't put up with any monkey business from anyone, low crime rate, free education, decent health care, and registrars have nothing to worry about as long as they don't get out of line. Germany doesn't put up with the non-sense that us puts up with. Germany probably wouldn't be a good place for you..
    • Uhm... Mike (Farmer)?

      That is the most ridiculous line of reasoning I've ever heard. And for two reasons.

      1: Germany is consistently rated one of the best countries to live and raise a family and be educated. Just an FYI. The German government protects its people to the degree that not even the evil empire known as Wal-Mart is allowed to abuse its employees there.

      Believe it or not, they did learn a lot from WWII and the Nazi regime. There are fiercely protective of their people. And they have a right to be concerned because...

      2: FaceBook was with money from investments by a CIA-run technologies firm that invests in private sector companies with government money. Companies range from weaponry and aeronautics to the more mundane web functions like social networking. Whether or not you believe the whole 'Facebook/CIA conspiracy', the only reason FB is around is because of the government.

      2a: FaceBook took data mining (spying, tracking, and reporting functions) technologies pioneered by Microsoft (look up 'Alexa') took them to the next level. Where once you had simple page use being tracked statistically, sites like FB opened up a whole new can of worms where cookies started logging site use times, preferences, so on and so forth. That info was sold by FB to companies to target you with marketing, and still is.

      They make money off of you, even if you don't spend a dime.... Also, their biorecognition photo software also searches for you on other sites like Photobucket or LinkedIn or .... whatever else you use that has your photo(s). Once they make a positive ID, I'm betting money that they approach those companies with an offer to sell your info to them.

      2b (or not 2b): Companies not only use the information they purchase about you from TheFaceBook (sorry, FB) to better market things to you, but they also resell it to companies who do the same, aaaannnndddd they also now post as you. Ever see a "Your Friend likes" and then an add for Taco Bell or something similar? That's because you clicked 'like' and FaceBook decided that you didn't have control over what Taco Bell did with their advertisments, so now Taco Bell is posting as you and encouraging people to try their newest burrito (which isn't actually Mexican food btw).

      The biggest impact of this (other than on the weak minded) is on kids.

      2c: Until I believe it was sometime early this year (would have to check an essay I wrote on the dangers of FB) FB's TOS listed that everything you did or said or uploaded on/to FaceBook became their property. You're an artist? Tough luck. Your uploaded artwork (and the original of the pieces) belong to them. Your pictures? Zuckerberg's property.

      This allowed them to take control over your posts and use your own words to target marketing focus to you. FB, it should be noted, has also supported the SOPA/IPPA/CISPA bills as well. . . . so who knows what else they're doing with your info.

      3d (because I had to): China announced just before FB started selling shares on the stock market that they were interested in buying as many shares as possible. Share holders have certain rights, the higher amount of stock someone controls equates to how effectively they can change business practices.

      China doesn't like the US. Despite most of our (greedy) manufacturing being shipped there (due to 3rd world conditions and non-existent human rights laws protecting the Chinese workers), China has repeatedly stated it would collapse our economy if possible. Add to that the fact that most counterfeit items sold in the US come from China, now give them access to American demographics, even just in purchasing power.

      Now do the math....

      @Mike Menace, "As big and as rich as fb is one would think they would draw a line somewhere not push the boundaries of what is legal. fb should protect the people who line their pockets and make fb a good experience instead ofweasel and squirm their way deep into people's privacy."

      ....Uhm, ever hear of a company called Microsoft? Go read the changes to their EULAs since XP.

      You'll see that not only do you basically pay to borrow Windows and any Microsoft product, but also that Microsoft reserves the right to go into your computer and make changes without notice or warning.

      Iosax.... dude, that is one of the derpiest statements I've ever heard. Maybe 20 years ago not using your name online didn't matter. Then again, your ISP can tell a law enforcement agency, marketing company, or any other user the town/state you're in, as well as your ISP. (It's called a DNS backtrace.) There are ways around it, but unless you're using them....

      You use IM? Chat online, whether by an IM or game? You go to your favorite websites? Purchase stuff online? E-mail people?

      You're info is out there....
      • Sorry, that should say....

        2: FaceBook was started with.

        Long post done over several hours due to life. Sorry for the proof read botch.
  • the internet is a dangerous place

    it's simply crazy to use your real name on the internet, you're just begging for trouble
    • ..

      why is it crazy to use your real name? do you not believe in the things you say and if there are attempts to use what you have said against you, are you implying that would be wrong?
      Shawn Walsh
      • Uh, Yes actually

        When I was about 20 I used to think I was right about everything I believed, it turns out that many times I wrote something on the internet, I realized later I was wrong. Even if that doesn't describe you, the internet does a damn good job solidifying everything it captures for the rest of time.
        So yes, I think it's crazy to immortalize everything I ever say with my name on it.
  • Ze Germans

    What are the germans complaining about. I am a Republican and know for a fact that only 2% of german households have internet access.Only two other countries have less access, North Korea and Iran. Get connected, then complain..Go Mitt 2012!
    Fauler Zack
    • ..

      really only 2%.. please cite the references for this 'fact' as they differ from mine...
      "Both computer ownership and Internet access are more widespread in German households than in European households on average"
      "In 2011, 77% of the households in Germany has internet access, the majority of which (93 %) had a fast internet access (broadband connection)"
      Shawn Walsh
      • ..

        I was referring to East Germany
        Fauler Zack
        • still waiting for your fact link

          2% in "East Germany" (a country that doesn't exist anymore)
      • I like the sounds of that, considering I have

        to use satellite, and it plains sucks, no doubt about it. You're limited to 400mb/day of download! And the monthly bill is just shy of $80! I would love to have DSL or Cable, but that's not going to happen any time soon...
    • wow Fauler Zack

      so you dont do fact checking? no wonder this country is going to shit. Keep voting for your Depublicans and Remoctracts.
      • @fire 115

        Facts are facts, you cant handle the truth. Obviously you are not american and dont understand our government system.
        Fauler Zack
        • @Fauler Zack

          dude i know more about our government then your head will ever be able to comprehend. People like you are the reason why we still use electoral college to elect the president … you don’t do any fact checking and you blindly assume your uneducated opinion is always correct. You just made a total fool out of your self twice here, so just stfu already.
          • ...

            haha...I'm just messing with y'all!! Just wanted to know if someone felt for it.. :P. Didn't you read my username? it means lazybone or couch potato.. You are right to be mad at me, I was just bored and wanted to know if people still believe in nonsense.. I have been living long enough in Germany to know how they roll.. Was there even before the internet. Germany still maintains an excellent science and technology educational system. I don't know anyone in Germany that doesn't have an internet access. They simply don't like giving too much personal information online , which is weird, because they have to do give it away anyway almost every day for every "Amt"(department or government office) even when they move out like Michael Farmer said. Ze germans!! Nice people but complicated..
            Fauler Zack