German Court Curbs Facebook User Terms

On January 16, 2018, and in another step toward reigning in Facebook’s data practices in Europe, a Berlin district court issued a 250,000 judgment against Facebook Ireland Ltd. and ordered the company to change many of its terms of use for German users of the social network.[1]

Here are a few of the main points:

Facebook cannot require German users to register using their true name.  Users can register under an anonymous or pseudonymous name. This is an issue which was raised at least as early as 2012 by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV), but remain unresolved until now.[2]

Current Facebook practices in which certain privacy settings are pre-set or set by default are not permitted. Users of the mobile app must be able to opt in to sharing their location.  Users must also consent expressly to:

  1. Use of sites such as Google to show a user’s profile in search results;
  2. Facebook’s use of user names and profile for commercial, sponsored or other applications; and
  3. any transfer of personal data to the U.S.

Facebook opposed the decision and plans to appeal. Nevertheless, the Plaintiff, VZBV, welcomed the ruling as an overall success for users.  The VZBV is also expected to appeal on the points it lost, such as the finding that Facebook’s advertising its service as “free and always will be” is admissible and not confusing.

For any U.S. companies which collect, use, or process personal data of data holders resident in the EU, the means of showing compliance, disclosures, and consents to be obtained from the data holders has increased, become more restrictive, and the enforcement of data protection rules will become more stringent by this coming May when the EU General Data Protection Regulation[3]  becomes effective.

For more information see

[1] AZ 16 O 341/15:


[3] Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (OJ L 119, 4.5.2016, p. 1–88)