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A local German court ruling against Facebook Inc.'s default privacy settings and terms of service elements provides insight into how companies should deal with the upcoming European Union privacy regime, a data protection attorney told Bloomberg Law.
“The ruling is a good litmus test for how data protection regimes will apply in the real world,” said Scott Vernick, a partner at Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia specializing in data privacy and the EU General Data Protection Regulation taking effect May 25. “It’s a harbinger of things to come.”
The ruling may have limited, long-term impact as precedent because the German law at issue will be supplanted by the GDPR.
Still, it makes clear that data giants such as Facebook and Alphabet Inc.'s Google must match their operations to the GDPR’s new consent requirements, Nina Diercks, a data protection attorney based in Hamburg, told Bloomberg Law.
The German Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG) requires that online services provide users with clear, easy-to-understand information about the intended use of their collected data—standards echoed in the GDPR.
The German ruling makes clear that a company needs “hard and express consent” for each way data is collected and used, and policies need to be communicated in an upfront, clear, and user-friendly manner, Vernick said.
Facebook, though, may be able to fix the court-identified problems with relative ease.
The social media company, in a statement provided to Bloomberg Law, said its “products and policies have changed a lot since this case was brought, and further changes to our terms and Data Policy are anticipated later this year in light of upcoming changes to the law.”
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