In the light of the recent ruling of the European Court of Justice, website owners have to bear in mind their data protection responsibilities when using plugins on their websites.
This case concerns the German company FashionID, which had a Facebook plug-in installed on its website. In addition, the program transmitted personal data to Facebook without the visitor being aware of it, regardless of whether they have a Facebook account or have pressed the “Like” button.
In its ruling, the court explained that in such a situation the website owner is jointly responsible with Facebook for the personal data collected and sent to Facebook. The website owner is not responsible for the subsequent processing of personal data by Facebook alone.
The court found that FashionID could be considered a joint controller with Facebook since FashionID and Facebook jointly determine the means and purposes of the data processing operations when assessing the collection and transfer of personal data. Using the Facebook plug-in on a website allows FashionID to optimize the promotion of its products, making them more visible and providing a clear business advantage. This shows that using the plug-in is in the economic interest of both FashionID and Facebook.
The court explained that the website must obtain the user’s consent before sending personal data to Facebook unless a legitimate interest is used as a basis for the processing. Such consent must be separate and specific to such data processing operation.
Websites send personal information to Facebook already at the time of page loading, before the user can opt-out. However, data protection rules require consent before sending personal data through plug-ins to third parties. Such consent can be added to the cookie message bar and an explanation of the services to which the personal information is transmitted. In this case, the consent request is clear and transparent. It is also possible to set up plug-ins so that they do not send information until the visitor of the web site has given their consent, i.e., clicking on the cookie banner.
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