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Google, Facebook and Twitter to face French legal battle

Some of the world's biggest social platforms were again under attack in France on Tuesday, as a consumers group announced it was taking them to court over "abusive and illicit" clauses and privacy issues.

Social media apps displayed on a smartphone.
Karen Bleier | AFP | Getty Images
Social media apps displayed on a smartphone.

The French Federal Union of Consumers, UFC-Que Choisir, said in a statement that it was taking Google, Facebook and Twitter to court due to their refusal to amend the terms and conditions of their social platforms. The consumer group wrote that it had repeatedly asked the social platforms to change their terms-of-use since June 2013, to no avail.

(Read more: Google to help the French press online)

UFC-Que Choisir described the terms as "inaccessible, illegible and full of hyperlinks – between 40 and 100 hyperlinks."

"Worse", it said, the three internet giants persisted in authorizing the "collection, modification, conservation and exploitation" of users' data and granted themselves an unlimited right to sell this data to partners.

Nicolas Godsroy, senior legal aide at UFC-Que Choisir, told CNBC that he wanted the social platforms "to change their contracts in accordance with French law."

UFC-Que Choisir is callings on France to force Google, Facebook and Twitter to delete or modify the contentious clauses, and to kick-start an online privacy debate at the European Union level. CNBC contacted Facebook, Google and Twitter, but received no reply.

Meanwhile, UFC-Que Choisir is gearing up for years of legal battle. "It's a long-term undertaking," Godsroy told CNBC.

(Read more: François Hollande targets Silicon Valley 'brain drain')

Alain Bensoussan, a French lawyer specialist in digital rights, agreed the battle could take years. However, he described it as an "excellent action".

"It's the start of an awareness," Bensoussan told CNBC by phone. "People don't read terms and conditions, so security systems should be activated by default, with the option to deactivate them."

UFC-Que Choisir said recent European Union efforts to establish a legal framework to protect consumers' data were a step in the right direction. However, Godsroy said the EU should go much further, so that "companies can't use consumers' data without the consumer's full knowledge and control."

(Read more: Au revoir, entrepreneurs)

Google has already come under fire in France for data protection issues this year. In January, it was condemned to pay 150,000 euros ($207,000) by the French Commission for IT and Liberties, which found the group's data confidentiality policy in violation of the law.

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