SOCIAL NETWORK Facebook has seen its Friend Finder feature ruled illegal in Germany after a court said that it "harassed" non-members of the website.
The German High Court's ruling confirms the rulings of two lower courts, according to Reuters. The court said that the promotional feature constituted "advertising harassment", noting that Facebook also didn't do enough to inform people how it was using their contacts' data.
"After six years of proceedings, the German Supreme Court confirms on all points that Facebook may not use personal information without consent for promotional purposes," said chairman of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations Klaus Müller in a statement.
"The disclosure of personal data of friends, colleagues or business partners on the Facebook Friend Finder is tricky. Consumers do not want to be bothered."
Facebook had argued that the feature exists to allow current members to expand their social network, as opposed to its own user base, and that the emails were not advertising.
It's not exactly clear what the future holds for the Friend Finder feature, but it's likely that Facebook will have to stop using the current iteration in Germany, unless appropriate changes have been made to the tool since the case was filed six years ago.
"What the judgement means exactly for the current Friends Finder, we now have to find out," Müller said.
Friend Finder allows existing members to import their contacts to Facebook so that they can find friends on the social network, but the company also used these details to send invitation emails to non-members on behalf of its users.
Facebook says in its explanation of the feature: "Friend Finder uploads contacts from your device and stores them on Facebook's servers where they may be used to help others search for people or to generate friend suggestions for you and others."
It adds, somewhat ironically: "Professional contacts may be imported but you should only send friend requests to personal contacts. Please send friend requests only to friends who will be glad to get them."
A Facebook spokesperson told Reuters that the company is waiting for the formal court decision before it can "assess any impact on our services". µ
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