German Court Blocks Retailer From Using Facebook Like Button

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Facebook has several big and small businesses making use of its site to attract customers and promote their businesses. However, an online shopping site will no longer be able to use Facebook’s “like” button because of a German court ruling on Wednesday. This move comes as a further legal blow to the world’s biggest social network in Germany.

Why such a ruling?

According to the Duesseldorf District Court, retailer Peek & Cloppenburg had not obtained proper consent before it began transmitting the computer identities of its users on Facebook. This was in violation of Germany’s data protection law, says Reuters.

The North Rhine-Westphalia Consumer Association filed a complaint against Peek & Cloppenburg’s Fashion ID website, alleging that the retailer grabbed user data and sent it to Facebook even before shoppers made the decision of clicking or not clicking the “like” button. The retailer faces a fine of 250,000 euros ($275,400) or a six-month detention of a manager.

“A mere link to a data protection statement at the foot of the website does not constitute an indication that data are being or are about to be processed,” the court said.

The association has also issued warnings about similar use of the “like” button to hotel portal HRS, Nivea maker Beiersdorf, shopping loyalty program Payback, ticketing company Eventim and fashion retailer KiK. Four of the warnings have resulted in changes in their practices.

Germany vs. Facebook

Germany, which is Europe’s biggest economy, is among the strictest enforcers of data protection laws in the world, and the sensibility of its citizens is very high when it comes to privacy issues. Features such as Facebook’s “like” button helped raise its ability to target advertising, driving up revenue by 52% in the final quarter of 2015.

Lawyer Sebastian Meyer, who represented the consumer group in the case, said, “The ruling has fundamental significance for the assessment of the legality of the ‘like’ function with respect to data protection.”

Meyer said the companies should pressure the social network to adapt the “like” function to the prevailing law.

This case comes on the heels of a ruling from Germany’s highest court against Facebook’s “friend finder” feature in January and an announcement from Germany’s competition regulator last week of it conducting an investigation to find out if Facebook was abusing its market power with regard to data protection laws.

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