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German Court Rules against Use of Facebook “like” Button | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A man walks in front of the Facebook logo at the new Facebook Innovation Hub during a preview media tour in Germany.


A man walks in front of the Facebook logo at the new Facebook Innovation Hub during a preview media tour in Germany.

Frankfurt- The German-Duesseldorf district court has ruled against an online shopping site’s use of Facebook’s “like” button, dealing a further legal blow to the world’s biggest social network in Germany, stating that the retailer Peek & Cloppenburg did not succeed to obtain proper consent before transmitting its users’ computer identities to Facebook, violating Germany’s data protection law and giving the retailer a commercial advantage.

The court said “”A mere link to a data protection statement at the foot of the website does not constitute an indication that data are being or are about to be processed”, and thus it found in favor of the North Rhine-Westphalia Consumer Association, which had complained that Peek & Cloppenburg’s Fashion ID website had grabbed user data and sent it to Facebook before shoppers had decided whether to click on the “like” button or not.

This case coincides with the January ruling by Germany’s highest court against Facebook’s “friend finder” feature and a statement issued last week by Germany’s competition regulator that it was investigating Facebook for alleged abuse of market power with regard to data protection laws. Noting that currently; Peek & Cloppenburg faces a penalty of up to 250,000 euros ($275,400) or six months’ detention for a manager.

With the help of Facebook’s capability of hitting target advertising with special features such as its “like” button, a 52 percent revenue rise was hit in the final quarter of 2015. Europe’s biggest economy, Germany; one of the world’s strictest enforcers of data protection laws, where even its citizens have a high sensibility to privacy issues.

Lawyer Sebastian Meyer, who represented the consumer group in the case, stated that “the ruling has fundamental significance for the assessment of the legality of the ‘like’ function with respect to data protection”, he added that “Companies should put pressure on the social network to adapt the ‘like’ function to the prevailing law”.

In addition to the aforementioned, the association has also warned hotel portal HRS, Nivea maker Beiersdorf, shopping loyalty programme Payback, ticketing company Eventim and fashion retailer KiK about similar use of the “like” button. Noting that according to the association, four of those had since altered their practices. A first hearing in a case it has brought against Payback is due in a Munich court in May. Peek & Cloppenburg said that it had reformed its utilization of the “like” button last year and at the moment; it required users to activate social media before sharing data with Facebook. It added that it would wait for the court’s written reasons for its judgment before taking decision whether to appeal.

A statement issued by a Facebook spokesman assumed: “This case is specific to a particular website and the way they have sought consent from their users in the past. “The Like button, like many other features that are used to enhance websites, is an accepted, legal and important part of the Internet, and this ruling does not change that.”