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German consumer group blasts Facebook's App Center

A German consumer group is fighting back against Facebook's App Center, alleging that the feature gathers personal information without users' consent, a violation of German law.

The group, VZBV, argues that third parties who provide games, surveys, or quizzes on Facebook don't ensure user consent, but instead it is "simply assumed." That's allegedly a violation of Germany's Telemedia Act [PDF], according to VZBV.

The group has given Facebook a 4 September deadline to tweak the App Center to allow users to know that the company releases their personal data and how it's being used.

"The practice of the company ... to assume [consent] simply must come to an end," VZBV said.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.

Earlier this month, German data protection officials requested that Facebook disable its facial recognition software used in photo tagging, originally announced in December, and also delete any previously stored data. Offering an opt-out from the feature wasn't considered a suitable solution by German officials, who argued that Facebook was storing photo information in a database that remains intact even when a user opts out of the service.

Two weeks ago, Hamburg data protection commissioner Johannes Caspar re-opened the country's investigation into Facebook's facial recognition technology.

The original investigation was closed in June, at which time the German government found that the social network was complying with its request. Caspar re-opened the case upon seeing evidence that he claimed showed a lack of compliance on Facebook's part.

Facebook has defended its facial recognition mechanism, saying that its photo tag suggestion feature is fully compliant with EU data protection laws.

"During our continuous dialog with our supervisory authority in Europe, the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, we agreed to develop the best practice solution to notify people on Facebook about photo tag suggest," a spokeswoman said recently.

But VZBV has threatened legal action if Facebook does not make what the consumer lobby group deems necessary changes before the group's 4 September deadline, according to Reuters.