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Germany sues e-commerce sites for sharing data with Facebook

By Nathaniel Mott , written on May 22, 2015

From The News Desk

Facebook isn't the only company receiving flack from regulators over the data it collects through its "Like" button.

Germany's consumer watchdog has sued two e-commerce companies for using the button on their websites because, the Wall Street Journal reports, the sites didn't warn visitors that their personal data would be shared with Facebook.

The news follows months of intense scrutiny of Facebook's data practices across much of Europe, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, France, and Spain, where regulators are concerned about the amount of data Facebook gobbles up.

Researchers in those countries were especially concerned about Facebook gathering information about people who haven't signed up for its service -- a claim Facebook first denied, then said was the result of a "bug" in its system.

The German watchdog says that sharing information with Facebook by installing its "Like" button, especially without informing consumers about the data-sharing, violates European privacy laws. The Wall Street Journal explains:

The state-backed Consumer Advice Center of North Rhine-Westphalia alleged that the transfer of user data infringed German privacy laws because visitors to the sites were not told that their personal information was being sent to Facebook.

The consumer watchdog said Facebook automatically receives data on the websites’ visitors through its Like button, even if those visitors do not have a Facebook account. Facebook gets data on all visitors, whether they click on the button or not, the center said.

The watchdog's criticism comes just a few days after Belgian researchers advised consumers to install privacy software so Facebook can't track them. Apparently the company's threat to delay new features if regulators keep bothering it about its data practices weren't as scary as it might've hoped.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]