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Berlin court rules Google violated data protection law

The Regional Court of Berlin [official website, in German] on Tuesday held that 25 of Google's [corporate website] privacy policies and terms of service violate Bundesdatenschutzgesetz (BDSG) [PDF, in German], Germany's data protection law. The case against Google was filed by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) [advocacy website], which challenged 13 privacy policies and 12 terms of service that it claimed were either overly broad or too restrictive [VZBV report] of consumers' rights. The clauses that were invalidated allowed Google to collect, analyze and process personal data without further consent of the user, as well as to delete applications and adjust features on devices without informing users. Google products prompt users to check a box upon initial use stating that they agree to the privacy policy and terms of service [text, in German], but VZBV argued this was not enough to alert consumers to the possible implications of agreeing to those terms. The same clauses that were struck down by the German court are currently used by Google worldwide. Google still has the opportunity to appeal the ruling.

Google has faced criticism throughout the world for alleged privacy violations. In September the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] denied a motion [JURIST report] to dismiss a lawsuit against Google for allegedly violating a federal wiretap law while collecting data for its Street View [corporate website] program. The case arose after Google acknowledged that its Street View vehicles had been collecting and storing data over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, including personal e-mails, usernames, passwords, videos and documents. In April Google agreed to a $7 million settlement [JURIST report] of another case for alleged improper data collection during its Street View campaign. That same month, six European countries commenced legal action [JURIST report] against the corporation challenging its privacy policies. Last year an Italian appeals court overturned an earlier conviction of three Google executives for violating the country's privacy laws [JURIST report] by posting a video on Google of a handicapped child being bullied. Months earlier, a Switzerland court ruled in favor of Google [JURIST report] in a privacy suit involving its Street View service. Similarly, in March 2011 a Berlin court ruled [JURIST report] in favor of Google, holding that the controversial Street View service is legal in Germany.

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