Facebook Loses German Ruling Over Friend Finder’s Use of E-Mails

Facebook Inc. lost a ruling in Germany over using the e-mail addresses of people who aren’t members of its social network.

A Berlin court found Facebook doesn’t adequately inform members that all e-mail addresses imported by its “Friend Finder” function will be used to contact others, even if they aren’t members of its network, German consumer group Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband, which won the ruling, said on its website today. The judges criticized the company saying users are “lured” into disclosing those addresses, it said.

“The ruling is a milestone,” the group said. The Palo Alto, California-based company “must respect data-protection rules in Europe.”

Facebook last year reached a deal with a German regulator reviewing the friend-finder function. Under that agreement with the City of Hamburg’s data-protection agency, Facebook must inform non-members by e-mail explaining why their addresses are used and how they can be kept private.

The company will look into the details of today’s decision as soon as they are available and then decide on the next steps, Facebook said in an e-mailed statement.

Facebook’s Irish unit, which serves users in Germany, is committed to adhering to European data-protection principles, as demonstrated by the recent report of the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, the company said.

The court also said Facebook improperly required users in its general terms to grant the company licenses for the free use of all content posted on their pages and to agree to data processing for publicity, the consumer group said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karin Matussek in Berlin at kmatussek@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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