German high court rules Facebook’s ‘Friend Finder’ function illegal

Germany’s highest court has ruled that Facebook’s ‘Friend Finder’ function is illegal, calling it an unlawful form of marketing the social media network.

The country’s Federal Court of Justice declared the feature as advertising harassment and an intrusive form of marketing on behalf of Facebook by using data imported by the user.

Facebook’s ‘Friend Finder’ feature imports contacts from a user’s email address books, and uploads them to the social network. The problem lies in how Facebook handles ownership of personal data uploaded to the network for marketing itself.

Find-Friends facebook
The ‘Friend Finder’ feature imports data from a user’s email account, Skype, and other services. Image:

The ruling confirms two previous decisions by lower courts in Berlin which concluded that Facebook violated German laws on data protection.

The case was filed in 2010 by the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV).

“Invitation emails from Facebook to people who have not clearly consented to receiving them are an unacceptable nuisance,” the court ruled.

The VZBV welcomed the court’s decision and hopes that it will also have an effect on other companies that use similar advertising methods.

Klaus Mueller, head of the VZBV, was quoted by Reuters as saying:

“What the judgment means exactly for the current Friends Finder, we now have to find out,”

“In addition to Facebook, other services use this form of advertising to attract new users. They must now probably rethink,” Mueller added.

A Facebook spokesperson said that the social media giant will review the ruling as soon as possible.

“We will study it carefully to assess any impact on our services today,” she said.