On July 29, 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) issued its judgment in Case C-40/17 (Fashion ID GmbH & Co. KG v Verbraucherzentrale NRW eV). This is a landmark decision regarding the assessment of who has the responsibility for complying with data protection legislation in the context of embedding third-party features that regularly takes place on websites.
The CJEU adopted a broad view of the situations in which a “joint controllership” can arise. It held that, under EU data protection legislation, the operator of a website featuring the Facebook ‘Like’ button (a social plugin that causes the transmission to Facebook of website users’ personal data) can qualify as a controller, jointly with Facebook. Consequently, the website operator is directly responsible for complying with legal obligations in this respect, including by informing its users that their personal data will be transferred to Facebook.
However, the CJEU importantly clarified that the website operator’s role as controller (and the corresponding legal obligations) is limited to the collection and transmission of the data to Facebook and does not include any subsequent personal data processing that Facebook carries out.
The CJEU’s findings will potentially affect third-party technologies other than the Facebook ‘Like’ button, which are often incorporated into websites, such as cookies and pixels.