The highest court in Germany has ruled that Facebook’s ‘Friends Finder’ function is unlawful on the grounds that it scrapes the e-mail contacts of users in order to market the social media site to other users. The German Federal Court of Justice found that the feature – a complaint in a case brought against Facebook in 2010 by the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) – constituted advertising harassment, upholding a previous judgement from 2014.
A summary from the 2014 ruling [PDF] described the function of the ‘Friends Finder’ feature as “undue, harassing, and therefore illicit advertising as defined by the German Law against Unfair Competition,” and argued that “the Find Friends feature violates German privacy laws. After the user clicks the Find Friends button, Facebook processes and uses personal data for advertising purposes without informing the user or obtaining the user’s consent as required by law.”
“What the judgment means exactly for the current Friends Finder, we now have to find out,” Klaus Mueller, head of the VZBV, said (via Reuters). “In addition to Facebook, other services use this form of advertising to attract new users. They must now probably rethink.”
In a statement, a Facebook Germany spokesperson said that the company was still awaiting receipt of the formal decision and that it would examine the findings “to assess any impact on our services.”