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News regarding the German wave of Warning Letters regarding the usage of “Google Fonts”
We have already reported on the wave of warning letters regarding the alleged illegal use of Google Fonts. Among others, a Berlin lawyer sent out corresponding warning letters on behalf of his client. The lawyer offered to refrain from further legal actions by agreeing on a “settlement offer” any a one-time payment of 170.00 Euros.
We received numerous cases. Furthermore, media outlets quickly reported on high case numbers, too. Therefore, the suspicion soon arose that an automatic website check with regard to the use of Google Fonts may have been carried out via an automated software.
On December 21, 2022, the Berlin Attorney General’s Office finally issued a press release in this matter. The Berlin Attorney General’s Office reports that there is a criminal investigation regarding the Berlin lawyer and his client on suspicion of (partly) attempted fraud and (attempted) extortion in at least 2,418 cases. According to the press release, around 2,000 people are said to have accepted and paid the “settlement offer” out of fear of legal consequences.
Furthermore, the Berlin Attorney General’s Office states that the suspects first used specially programmed software to identify websites using Google Fonts. In a second step, and again using software developed for this purpose, the suspects are accused of using such software to run automated website visits by one of the suspects.
The starting point of this wave of warning letters is a judgment by the regional court of Munich, dated January 20, 2022 (Case No. 3 O 17493/20), as stated in the press release as well. Accordingly, in this specific case, the plaintiff was awarded i.a. a claim for damages in the amount of 100.00 Euros due to an (alleged) data protection violation.
There might be no data protection violation at all, if these allegations by the Berlin Attorney General’s Office are confirmed. Maybe a website’s data controller did not process the personal data of the respective suspect to begin with or at least a website’s data controller did not violate data protection laws when processing respective data.
We assume that this wave of warning letters regarding the use of Google Fonts is done. With regard to the future, we would like to recommend in any case that a competent lawyer assesses a warning letter and not to prematurely accept a supposed “settlement offer”.