Facebook’s “Find-a-Friend” Contacts-Invitation Tool Ruled Illegal In Germany
German high court orders company to disable the feature immediately.
Facebook’s “friend finder” bulk contacts-invitation function has been found to violate Germany’s data protection rules. The country’s highest court also called it a deceptive marketing practice and has ordered the feature disabled in Germany.
The find-a-friend functionality uses a member’s contacts/address book and sends invitations to those individuals who aren’t currently on Facebook. The case resulting in the high-court decision was originally filed in 2010 by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations.
The decision by the Federal Court of Justice affirms two lower court rulings that found the tool a violation of Germany privacy laws and an unfair trade practice. Facebook issued a statement that it will “study [the decision] carefully to assess any impact on our services today.”
According to an aggregation of third-party data, Europe has a population of just over 820 million, roughly 73 percent of which are online. About 51 percent of European internet users are already on Facebook. So there’s still meaningful growth opportunity for the company in that market.
Facebook and several other US internet companies have a history of privacy complaints in Europe. This past December, Europe approved new data protection regulations that would take effect in 2017 and apply uniformly across the European Union. These rules formalize the Right to Be Forgotten and grant individuals more control over their data.
They are also at odds with US rules and will create operational challenges for non-EU companies doing business in Europe.