Consumer users successfully sue against google provisions

The regional court of berlin declared a total of 25 clauses illegal, as the federation of german consumer organizations (vzbv) announced on tuesday. They had been formulated too vaguely or had inadmissibly restricted the rights of consumers. The ruling is not yet legally binding, google wants to appeal.

13 of the clauses are about data protection. In its data protection declaration, google has reserved the right, among other things, to "possibly" collect device-specific information and location data or "under certain circumstances" to combine personal data from the various google services, explained vzbv head gerd billen. For consumers, it remained unclear exactly what they were supposed to agree to, he criticized.

In addition, in the view of the vzbv, it is not possible to give legally compliant consent to the use of personal data if consumers merely tick a declaration with the following text when registering: "I agree to google’s terms of use and have read the data protection declaration."

Google believes consumer users do not have standing to sue over privacy policy because it is not part of terms and conditions. Billen calls for expanded right to sue: "consumer associations must also be able to take action without hurdles against violations of data protection law." The new federal government should create a corresponding regulation.

Meanwhile, data privacy activists buried the berlin district court ruling. It will also stand up in the following instances, said imke sommer, chairwoman of the conference of federal and state data protection commissioners, to the "berliner zeitung" (thursday edition). "No court will see it differently."

Google will have to revise its data protection regulations. The company must inform about what it intends to do with the data – "vague formulations are not enough". Otherwise, user consents to data protection provisions are "invalid," said sommer.

According to the vzbv, the twelve affected terms of use include google’s right to remove applications from a device, to remove functions from services, and to check, change and delete all data posted on the services. The vzbv also considered the fact that google reserved the right to unilaterally change the terms of use without the consumer’s consent to be unreasonably disadvantageous.

"We will appeal against the ruling. We are convinced that our terms of use and our privacy policy are in accordance with the relevant laws," a google spokesman said on tuesday evening.

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