Germany -- Almost a year after Germany reopened its probe into world's biggest social networking outfit Facebook's facial-recognition program, Germany's major consumer association, the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, has alleged that Facebook's new App Center violates German law and has sent a 'cease and desist' letter to the social media operator to fix it, or potentially face legal action.
The new Facebook App Center was released for global users in late July 2012. The German federation of consumer organizations, known by its German acronym, VZBV, on Monday said that the social network was sharing away customer data via its new app centre without notifying users.
“[Sending] such comprehensive data to third parties [is allowed,] but their use is only allowed under German law with the conscious and informed consent of a user--in the opinion of the VZVB, a clear violation of the Telemedia Act,” the group wrote (Google Translate) in a German-language statement on its website on Monday.
The group, VZBV, asserts that third parties who provide games, surveys, or quizzes on Facebook does not ensure user consent, but instead it is “simply assumed.” That is allegedly a violation of Germany's Telemedia Act, according to VZBV.
The group has given Facebook a Sept. 4 deadline to modify the App Center to allow users to know that the company releases their personal data and how it is being used.
“The practice of the company ... to assume [consent] simply must come to an end,” VZBV said.
The group warned that if Facebook fails to comply by the prescribed deadline it will sue the California company, a spokeswoman said.
A spokesperson for Facebook Germany said the company was looking into the matter and declined further comment.
However, of late, Germany and Facebook have had a pretty dismal relationship, to say the least. This latest ultimatum comes just weeks after the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information said he would reopen his investigation into Facebook's policies on tagging photos, retaining and deleting data and the level of control users have over their information, and demanded its destruction. In 2011, Facebook changed its “Friend Finder” feature after Caspar also pushed for fines against the company.
In its reasoning Facebook has defended its facial-recognition tech, saying that its photo tag suggestion feature is fully compliant with EU data protection laws. Apparently, offering an opt-out from the feature was not considered a suitable solution by German officials, who argued that Facebook was storing photo information in a database that remains intact even when a user opts out of the service.
Additionally, the social media giant Facebook was the first American company to debut with a value of more than $100 billion in its initial public offering in May, buoyed by its global user base of almost 1 billion. Sadly though, it has shed almost 60 percent of its value since then amid an uncertain sales outlook.
Admittedly, the social network is under intense pressure to boost advertising revenues, but doing so is a delicate exercise as it must avoid giving users the impression it is invading their privacy by storing information about them and passing it on to advertisers.