Facebook’s real-name policy is illegal according to German court ruling

A German court has ruled that Facebook’s insistence that users sign up with their real names violates German consumer law.

Other privacy settings that are activated by default were also deemed illegal, including a Facebook app feature that reveals your location unless it’s manually disabled.

The Berlin regional court found that Facebook collects personal data without providing sufficient privacy information for members to render meaningful consent.

The ruling was handed out last month, but is only now being announced by the the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV), which brought the suit against the social network.

Facebook says it will appeal the ruling, adding that it had already made significant changes to its terms of service since the case was first brought in 2015.

In the meantime, the platform (which reached a milestone of 2 billion users last year) is updating its data protection guidelines in accordance with new EU regulations due to be implemented in June.

According to VZBV, the court ruled that Facebook’s real-name policy was a “covert way” of obtaining users’ consent to share their names.

But it wasn’t a complete victory for the organisation. The court sided with Facebook on a complaint that said the service was misleading the public by claiming it was free, because in VBZV’s words: consumers “pay with their data”

Other privacy issues also swung in the social network’s favour, although VBZV plans to appeal them.

“Facebook hides data protection-unfriendly presets in its privacy centre, without sufficiently informing [people] during registration,” said Heiko Dünkel, Legal Officer at VZBV. “That’s not enough for informed consent.”

Facebook’s repeatedly found itself in the dock over privacy disputes in Germany, and Europe.

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