In the latest in an ongoing spat between social media giant Facebook, and the German State, a German court has fined Facebook 100,000 Euros (US$109,000) for failing to comply with a court order to adequately inform users about how it was using their intellectual property.
The dispute in question dates back to 2010, when the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) sued Facebook, taking issue with the latter’s Friend Finder service, which sends e-mail invitations in the name of the user to persons who are not registered with the service, and might not want to be. VZBV had alleged that the Friend Finder service violated consumer protection laws by importing the individual’s address data without consent.
In 2012, a lower German court had initially found for VZBV, and ordered that Facebook modify its Terms of Service to make clear the extent to which users’ intellectual property could be used by Facebook, and licensed to third parties. In January 2016, Germany’s top court not only reaffirmed the lower court’s decision, but added that while Facebook had changed the wording of the clause, the IP licensing clause in question had not been sufficiently modified. These transgressions have now earned Facebook a hefty 100,000 Euro fine.
Facebook has come under criticism in recent years, and faces increasing antipathy in Germany. This is in part prompted by numerous allegations of violating German data privacy laws, consumer protection laws, and for not doing enough to prevent the spread of xenophobic and racist hate speech on its networks.