On November 12, 2009, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V., “vzbv”), a non-governmental organization acting as an umbrella for 41 German consumer associations announced that the social networks Xing, MySpace, Facebook, Lokalisten, Wer-kennt-Wen and StudiVZ signed undertakings that they would discontinue use of certain terms and conditions and data protection provisions.  The vzbv sent warning notices to the six leading social network providers regarding a number of clauses.

The main criticism from vzbv referred to general terms and conditions and data protection provisions that disadvantaged users and gave wide-ranging rights to the providers.  The provisions regarding comprehensive use of data and data processing have been a primary subject of the proceedings.  These uses and processing often took place without the user’s consent and exceeded the original purpose for which the data were collected.  These practices are supposed to be changed in the future.  The providers promised to implement amendments to the provisions by January 2010 the latest.

The vzbv also has published a position paper that outlines what providers need to be doing from a user perspective.  This guidance includes for example, that the providers should ensure restrictive pre-settings for user profiles to more fully protect new users.  In addition, the providers should assess implications for data protection and consumer protection in case of new technical developments.