Apple’s Customer Data-Privacy Rules Struck Down by German Court

Apple Inc., already facing a U.S. privacy lawsuit over its information-sharing practices, was told by a German court to change its rules for handling customer data.

A Berlin court struck down eight of 15 provisions in Apple’s general data-use terms because they deviate too much from German laws, a consumer group said in a statement on its website today. The court said Apple can’t ask for “global consent” to use customer data or use information on the locations of customers.

“The ruling shows the high importance of data protection for consumers in a digital world,” said Gerd Billen, head of the group, Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband.

Technology companies face increased pressure from regulators over data protection and consumer rights. Google Inc. agreed last year to pay $22.5 million to settle U.S. Federal Trade Commission allegations it violated people’s privacy rights by breaching Apple’s Safari Internet browser.

The German press office of Cupertino, California-based Apple declined to comment. The ruling, which only applies to Germany, can be appealed.

In the U.S. lawsuit, Apple is accused of improperly collecting data on the locations of customers through iPhones, even after the device’s geo-location feature was turned off, and sharing personal information with third parties.

Binding Declaration

Apple had already signed a binding declaration that it wouldn’t use seven of the 15 clauses VZBV had objected to before the German suit was filed, the consumer group said. The remaining eight provisions were invalidated by today’s ruling, VZBV said. German law allows recognized consumer groups to sue companies over illegal terms and conditions.

Apple asked customers in the terms for “global consent” to use their data, while German law requires that clients know in detail what data is used for what purpose, VZBV said. Apple also may not ask for permission to use names, addresses and phone numbers of users’ contacts.

The court also blocked the iPad maker’s rule for delivering the data to other companies that use them for advertising, according to VZBV.

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