German federal consumer organisation Verbraucherzentrale Bundesver (VZBV) today won a court claim against Facebook and the terms and conditions of its Friend Finder service. The State Court in Berlin supported the VZBV's complaint, which says the Friend Finder service encourages Facebook members to import the names and e-mail addresses of friends who are not Facebook members. VZBV chairman Gerd Billen said "the ruling is a milestone" for forcing Menlo Park and others to "respect data-protection rules in Europe."
"We will take a close look into the details of today's court decision as soon as they are available and then decide on the next steps," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "Facebook Ireland Ltd, which provides our service to people in Germany, is committed to adhering to European data protection principles as demonstrated by the recent report of the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner." For that report, see Facebook promises changes following Irish privacy audit.
The Berlin court found Facebook doesn't adequately inform its members that all e-mail addresses imported by its Friend Finder service will be used to contact others, even if they aren't Facebook users. The judges criticized the company saying users are tempted into disclosing their friends' names and e-mail addresses, resulting in their friends receiving an invitation to Facebook without ever giving the social network their e-mail address.
The court ruled Facebook must clearly inform its users that Friend Finder imports their entire e-mail address book to Facebook and is used for inviting friends. The fact that Facebook gets access to your entire e-mail list "is still not readily apparent" VZBV's Gerd Billen said. He also added that the group will be watching Facebook closely to see how the company changes its Friend Finder service. Facebook has already made changes but VZBV still isn't satisfied.
I have contacted VZBV for more information and will update you if I hear back.
The judgement is without legal capacity yet. It is expected that Facebook will go to appeal."