French group files privacy suit against social networks

PARIS (AFP) - France's leading consumer rights group said on Tuesday it had filed suit against Twitter, Facebook and Google accusing the Internet giants of breaching privacy laws.

UFC-Que Choisir said it had filed suit in the Paris high court for "abusive" and "illegal" practices in the conditions of use on the Twitter, Facebook and Google+ social networks.

The group, which advises consumers about services, products and their rights, warned the companies last summer that it would file suit if they did not address concerns over terms of use and data-collection practices.

"After several months of talks and despite our warnings, they are stubbornly maintaining clauses that the association considers abusive or illegal," UFC-Que Choisir said in a statement.

The name Que Choisir means "how to choose".

The organisation said the terms of use for the sites were "inaccessible, unreadable and full of hypertext links" with some links available only in English.

"Worse, the networks persist in authorising the widespread collection, modification, preservation and use of the data of users and even of those around them," it said.

"Faced with such abuses," the group is asking French judges to "order the suppression or modification of the myriad of contentious clauses imposed by these companies." European nations including France have increasingly cracked down on the controversial privacy policies of global Internet giants.

In January, France's data protection watchdog imposed a 150,000-euro ($263,000) fine - the maximum possible - on Google for failing to comply with privacy guidelines.