German court rules Facebook use of personal data illegal

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German consumer rights group said on Monday that a court had found Facebook's <FB.O> use of personal data to be illegal because the U.S. social media platform did not adequately secure the informed consent of its users.

The verdict, from a Berlin regional court, comes as Big Tech faces increasing scrutiny in Germany over its handling of sensitive personal data that enables it to micro-target online advertising.

Salaries of employees at 25 top tech companies:

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Salaries of employees at 25 top tech companies
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Salaries of employees at 25 top tech companies

Google

Average annual bonus: $32,478

Average sign-on bonus: $27,547

Average annual base salary: $136,000

Netflix

Average annual bonus: $0

Average sign-on bonus: $3,520

Average annual base salary: $206,000

Twitter

Average annual bonus: $120

Average sign-on bonus: $26,144

Average annual base salary: $149,000

Apple

Average annual bonus: $20,298

Average sign-on bonus: $27,201

Average annual base salary: $102,000

Facebook

Average annual bonus: $33,225

Average sign-on bonus: $45,708

Average annual base salary: $145,000

Oculus VR

Average annual bonus: $395

Average sign-on bonus: $6,926

Average annual base salary: $119,000

Amazon

Average annual bonus: $24,732

Average sign-on bonus: $41,340

Average annual base salary: $118,000

Square

Average annual bonus: $988

Average sign-on bonus: $17,996

Average annual base salary: $134,000

Uber

Average annual bonus: $31,633

Average sign-on bonus: $1,807

Average annual base salary: $117,000

Pinterest 

Average annual bonus: $4,374

Average sign-on bonus: $33,376

Average annual base salary: $151,000

Tesla

Average annual bonus: $4,779

Average sign-on bonus: $19,447

Average annual base salary: $105,000

UnitedHealth Group

Average annual bonus: $7,280

Average sign-on bonus: $118

Average annual base salary: $87,000

Snap Inc.

Average annual bonus: $10,588

Average sign-on bonus: $23,705

Average annual base salary: $127,000

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.

Average annual bonus: $10,756

Average sign-on bonus: $8,265

Average annual base salary: $131,000

CSRA

Average annual bonus: $13,732

Average sign-on bonus: $1,186

Average annual base salary: $100,000

credit: Facebook

Capital One

Average annual bonus: $15,114

Average sign-on bonus: $8,568

Average annual base salary: $107,000

Fitbit

Average annual bonus: $18,069

Average sign-on bonus: $25,459

Average annual base salary: $128,000

Pandora

Average annual bonus: $22,316

Average sign-on bonus: $18,886

Average annual base salary: $109,000

Microsoft 

Average annual bonus: $23,224

Average sign-on bonus: $20,191

Average annual base salary: $179,000

Airbnb

Average annual bonus: $23,250

Average sign-on bonus: $23,250

Average annual base salary: $124,000

Arista Networks

Average annual bonus: $27,497

Average sign-on bonus: $18,652

Average annual base salary: $151,000

credit: Facebook

Linkedin

Average annual bonus: $32,216

Average sign-on bonus: $25,418

Average annual base salary: $149,000

Dropbox

Average annual bonus: $32,707

Average sign-on bonus: $32,833

Average annual base salary: $144,000

VMware

Average annual bonus: $33,145

Average sign-on bonus: $18,851

Average annual base salary: $147,000

Salesforce

Average annual bonus: $39,959

Average sign-on bonus: $28,314

Average annual base salary: $142,000

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The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzvb) said that Facebook's default settings and some of its terms of service were in breach of consumer law, and that the court had found parts of the consent to data usage to be invalid.

"Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy center and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register," said Heiko Duenkel, litigation policy officer at the vzvb.

"This does not meet the requirement for informed consent." The vzvb posted a copy of the ruling on its website. A court spokesperson confirmed that a judgment had been handed down but declined further comment.

FACEBOOK TO APPEAL

Facebook said it would appeal, even though several aspects of the court judgment had been in its favor. In a statement, it said it had already made significant changes to its terms of service and data protection guidelines since the case was first brought in 2015.

"We are working hard to ensure that our guidelines are clear and easy to understand, and that the services offered by Facebook are in full accordance with the law," Facebook said.

Further, Facebook would in the meantime update its data protection guidelines and its terms of service so that they comply with new European Union-wide rules that are due to enter force in June.

Facebook, which counts more than 2 billion users worldwide, already faces scrutiny from Germany's competition authorities over its handling of its users' personal data.

The Federal Cartel Office, in an interim update on an investigation into Facebook, said in December that it objected to the way the company gains access to third-party data when an account is opened.

This includes tapping information from its own WhatsApp and Instagram products - as well as how it tracks which sites its users access.

One concern highlighted by the consumer rights group was that, in Facebook's app for smartphones, a service was pre-activated that revealed the user's location to the person they were chatting to.

Also, in the privacy settings, ticks were already placed in boxes that allowed search engines to link to the user's timeline, meaning that anyone would be able quickly and easily to find a user's profile.

"The judges ruled that all five of the default settings on Facebook that vzvb complained about are invalid," the group said in a statement, adding that several other of Facebook's terms of use were found to be illegal.

(Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Susan Fenton)

 

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