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German court: 'Nein' to Apple 'global consent' on fanbois' privacy

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A German court has demanded that Apple change its rules on handling sensitive customer data.

The Berlin Regional Court told Apple to change eight clauses in its privacy policy, after the fruity firm agreed to drop a further seven of them.

These clauses include an end to "global consent" to use of customer data - which means that Apple users willingly submit their personal data to Cupertino without necessarily being informed about when and why Apple would use it. Following this judgment, Cupertino can no longer assume that German users agree to all their terms and conditions.

The changes will only apply to German users, meaning that British fanbois will still face the full mass of Cupertino's blitzkrieg against privacy.

A campaign group called Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (VZBV), or the Federation of German Consumer Associations, brought the case against Apple. In a statement on its website, which we've run through Google Translate, the VZBV said the court had "strengthened the rights of privacy of Apple's customers in Germany".

Gerd Billen, executive director of the VZBV, said:

The verdict shows the importance of privacy for consumers in the digital world.

Apple expects "global consent" from its customers. This is in breach of German law which requires that consumers know exactly what their data is being used for and how it is harvested. According to the ruling, the regulations unduly disadvantaged consumers because they violated fundamental principles of the German data protection law.

In addition, Apple will no longer be allowed to collect precise location data from German users, which is used to offer location-sensitive services, products or advertising. Even though location stats are collected without identifying data, the court prohibited the practice.

It will no longer be able to harvest data from users' contacts or merge information about a customer with information collected by its affiliates. Neither will the fruity firm be allowed to collect addresses, phone numbers or emails of consumers without said user's express permission.

Cupertino will, therefore, have to be more specific about how it uses German users' data from now on.

Apple will be able to appeal against the decision, which it is likely to do. If the appeal fails, Apple will be compelled to make all the required changes to its privacy policy. ®

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