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Alarm Over Facebook's 'Like' Button On Company Websites Sounded By Top EU Court

Alarm Over Facebook's 'Like' Button On Company Websites Sounded By Top EU Court
Consent from users have to be sought by website companies before they transfer data to Facebook’s servers in the United States  in case they make use of Facebook's "like" button in an embedded form on their websites, ruled the top court of the European Union.
The ruling is in line with the new data privacy rules that was adopted by the  Eu last year, say analysts.
A large number of online retail as companies have Facebook's "like" button and others embedded as plug-ins on their websites through which the companies seek to promote their products and services on the more popular social media platforms. However critics allege that such form  of transfer of data violates the privacy regulations.
This issue came to light after German online clothing retailer Fashion ID was sued in a German court by a German consumer body over charges that the retailer had used the button on its site and had thereby violated the laws of personal data protection. The case prompted the German court subsequently sought guidance from the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) which delivered this ruling on the case. The court also said that responsibility of breach should be shared jointly by the websites and Facebook.
According to the radical data protection rule that was adopted by the EU last year mandates that the reasons for collection and subsequent processing of personal data are to be determined by a data controller. It also is mandated to ensure that such companies and bodies secure consent from users before collecting and using them. This work on behalf of the controller is typically done by a data processor which simply processes personal data and is generally a third-party company.
"The operator of a website that features a Facebook 'like' button can be a controller jointly with Facebook in respect of the collection and transmission to Facebook of the personal data of visitors to its website," ECJ judges said.
The court also said that since the "like" button made its products more visible on Facebook, therefore the German retailer had reaped the benefits of commercial advantage. The court however also noted that the responsibility of how Facebook subsequently makes use of the data is not within the liability of the German company.
While mentioning that the website plug-ins are an important feature on the internet, Facebook said that clarity on the website plug-ins has been established by the ruling. "We are carefully reviewing the court's decision and will work closely with our partners to ensure they can continue to benefit from our social plug-ins and other business tools in full compliance with the law," Jack Gilbert, Facebook's associate general counsel, said in a statement.
The court ruling was welcomed by Verbraucherzentrale NRW, the German consumer protection group that brought in the law suit against Fashion ID. "Companies that profit from user data must now live up to their responsibility," its head, Wolfgang Schuldzinski, said after the ECJ's decision.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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