Facebook 'friend finder' constitutes advertising harassment, says German high court

Facebook’s European legal challenges continue to mount up after a court ruled that the social network’s ‘friend finder’ feature was violating laws on data protection and unfair trade practices.

Germany’s highest court ruled that Facebook’s ‘friend finder’ feature constituted advertising harassment, bring to an end a case that was filed in 2010 by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations(VZBV).

The recruitment feature invites users to grant Facebook permission to vacuum up all the e-mail addresses of contacts in the user’s address book and allow it to send an invitation to non-Facebook users to join the platform.

A panel of the Federal Court of Justice concluded that this was a deceptive marketing practice and pointed out that Facebook was wrong for not adequately informing members about how it was using their contacts’ data.

The decision is in line with earlier decisions made by two lower courts in Berlin in 2012 and 2014, which had found that Facebook had violated German laws on data protection and unfair trade practices.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Facebook in Germany said it was waiting to receive the formal decision and would study the findings “to assess any impact on our services.”

In November last year Facebook lost another case in Europe after a Belgium court ordered the company to stop tracking people who are not members of its social network or face fines of €250,000 a day. The social network was found to be taking personal data without the consent of users through a cookie which is installed when an internet user visits a Facebook page even if they are not a member.