The VzBv, Germany’s biggest consumer protection organization, announced on Thursday, February 26th that it warned Facebook that the social media titan must change its terms of service or face a lawsuit. The group says that Facebook must revise its ToS on topics including data protection and other issues.
Of note, the VzBv is an umbrella organization for 41 German consumer associations, and it claims that that 19 clauses in Facebook’s updated terms and policies are in violation of German law.
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Facebook has faced a flood of criticism and legal actions from privacy groups in Europe over the last couple of years. The firm has come under increased scrutiny recently after releasing a new ToS. Belgium’s data protection agency released a report earlier this week saying Zuckerberg and company’s new policies and terms violate European privacy laws.
Details on VzBz’s problems with Facebook’s ToS
The consumer group said it issued a cease-and-desist letter against Facebook, and the firm has until March 16 to reply. In its statement, VzBz especially focused on Facebook’s terms concerning using private data for advertising.
“For the consumer it’s not clear at first glance when [and] which data is being used for which purpose,” the organization noted.
VzBz also alleged that Facebook misleads consumers by calling itself a free service. Although it is free to users, the company makes a great deal of money selling users’ data to advertisers. The consumer watchdogs also criticized the requirement that users must use their real names on Facebook.
They also criticized Facebook’s default settings, which automatically assumes users agree with its policies. In order to prevent the social media giant from using particular private data, users must deactivate the default. This means users don’t have a chance to agree to the ToS in a conscious and deliberate manner.
Statement from Facebook
The firm said it is currently reviewing VzBz’s statement. “On preliminary review, we’re surprised that the VzBv is focused on settled terms and features that have been part of Facebook and other online services for the past 10 years, such as real name policies,” Facebook wrote in a statement. Moreover, it is “confident the updates comply with applicable laws.”