Google’s privacy policy unlawful in Germany

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25 November, 2013

On 21 November, the Court of Berlin declared 25 clauses from Google’s terms of service and privacy policy unlawful after a complaint of the Federation of German Consumer Associations (VZBV). According to the Court, the clauses are formulated too vaguely or are restricting the rights of consumers.

For example, Google reserves the right to monitor, delete or modify data that are collected through its services or to adapt functions and characteristics of the services itself. Consumers give their consent by accepting Google’s terms of service and privacy policy. However, according to VZBV, this is not sufficient. There should be an active act of the consumer to obtain the required consent.

Besides, Google only informs consumers in advance about changes to its services if that is “reasonably possible”. However, Google doesn’t explain what “reasonably possible” exactly means. Also, Google can modify the terms and conditions unilaterally and without permission. VZBV states this is unlawful discrimination of consumers.

According to Gerd Billen, executive director of VZBV, this judgment is an important signal to IT companies to rethink privacy and consumer protection seriously. Besides, Billen states that consumer associations urgently need a stronger legal position, to enable them to act against privacy violations appropriately. Therefore, the new government should create a regulation for that, says Billen.

Source: VZBV

Jonathan Toornstra

Legal Consultant

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