French Privacy Watchdog Takes a Bite Out of Facebook, Google

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

A French consumer privacy watchdog has sued social media giants Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), accusing all three companies of violating users’ privacy, according to a recent CNN report.

The group, called UFC-Que Choisir, is suing Facebook, Twitter, and Google in French High Court, alleging that the companies had not heeded warnings in June to modify their terms and conditions, which Que Choisir called “inaccessible” and “illegible.” The group has referred to the companies’ practices as “abusive,” and “illegal.”

The group claims that the social media sites have continued to “allow the collection, modification, conservation and exploitation of user data and that of their entourage” — a user’s friends, family, and other connections.

“If social media networks are particularly greedy in terms of data, they are dieting when it comes to responsibility,” the French watchdog group added, in a recent statement, per CNN.

Nicolas Godsroy, a senior legal aide at UFC-Que Choisir, said that the group wants the social media companies to “change their contracts in accordance with French law,” per CNBC. The group is calling on the French judicial system to “order the suppression or modification of the myriad litigious clauses imposed by these companies.”

Make no mistake, however, UFC-Que Choisir is in this for the long haul. The group is hoping that the allegations will become a catalyst for an online privacy debate at the level of the European Union. Godsroy is prepared for a legal battle and added that the effort would be a “long-term undertaking.”

“It’s the start of that awareness,” Alain Bensoussan told CNBC. “People don’t read the terms and conditions, so security systems should be activated by default, with the option to deactivate them.”

The EU has increasingly cracked down on the privacy policies of global social media corporations in recent months; for instance, Google came under fire for data protection issues in France in January and was fined 150,000 euros, but Godsroy says he hopes this time the EU will take its demands even farther, so that companies can’t utilize “consumers’ data without the consumer’s full knowledge and control.”

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