Germany: Facebook Like button violates privacy laws

Germany: Facebook Like button violates privacy laws

Summary: A German privacy group says use of the Facebook Like button leads to profiling that infringes German and European data protection laws.

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Facebook's Like button today was found in violation of Germany's strict privacy laws. Commissioner Thilo Weichert, who works for the Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (ULD) in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, said the social network’s plugin, which allows Internet users to express their appreciation of something online, illegally puts together a profile of their Web habits.

The ULD said if you visit Facebook.com or use a Facebook plugin such as the Like button, you should expect to be tracked by the company for two years: Facebook allegedly builds a broad profile for individuals not on the service as well as a more personalized profile of its members.

Traffic and content data are transferred to Facebook's servers in the US and an analysis is sent back to the website owner concerning the usage. The ULD believes such profiling infringes German and European data protection law. Users are not given sufficient information about this and the wording in Facebook's conditions of use and privacy statements do not meet the legal requirements relevant for compliance of legal notice, privacy consent, and general terms of use, according to the ULD.

The ULD is demanding that websites in Schleswig-Holstein remove their Facebook Pages as well as the Like button from their websites by the end of September 2011. If they do not, they will face a fine of up to €50,000 ($72,000).

As for Internet users, the ULD is advising "to keep their fingers from clicking on social plugins" such as the Facebook Like button and not to set up a Facebook account if they wish to avoid a comprehensive profiling by Palo Alto. Profiles are personal information, but Facebook requires that its members use their actual name, the organization points out.

"ULD has pointed out informally for some time that many Facebook offerings are in conflict with the law," Weichart said in a statememt. "This unfortunately has not prevented website owners from using the respective services and the more so as they are easy to install and free of charge. Web analytics is among those services and especially informative for advertising purposes. It is paid with the data of the users. With the help of these data Facebook has gained an estimated market value of more than 50 bn. dollars. Institutions must be aware that they cannot shift their responsibility for data privacy upon the enterprise Facebook which does not have an establishment in Germany and also not upon the users."

Facebook of course disagrees with Weichert's claims. "We firmly reject any assertion that Facebook is not compliant with EU data protection standards," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "The Facebook Like button is such a popular feature because people have complete control over how their information is shared through it. For more than a year, the plugin has brought value to many businesses and individuals every day. We will review the materials produced by the ULD, both on our own behalf and on the behalf of web users throughout Germany."

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Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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16 comments
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  • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

    dislike
    Coolaaron88
    • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

      @Coolaaron88
      That was funny - Like
      computerchipt
  • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

    Like
    shriniwas.kulkarni@...
  • Is there anything Germany actually likes, beyond beer?

    They don't like buttons, pictures, or Samsung
    William Farrell
    • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

      @William Farrell

      They love many things... Especially privacy just like me.

      Understand they are elitists, they don't have time for petty crap like Facebook as there is money to be made hence why they are the only country in the EU that can bail everyone else out. If they kept to themselves they could own Europe... and with just how wonderful and great our U.S. of A. is doing probably us as well at the rate we're going. Worried about Facebook? Try worrying about your country and how it can be made better!

      LoLz
      audidiablo
      • They don't have time for it...

        But somebody has the time to make a big deal about the "like" button.

        And the Government has the time to respond.

        BUSY PEOPLE.
        Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

      @William Farrell

      Oh and it just came to mind... They probably don't want their people being profiled as they were in WWII. It's a sore topic for the Germans. It's bad enough they are reminded every year with yet another movie based on WWII and the war crimes. Profiling people again? I don't think so... Hommie don't play that!!!
      audidiablo
  • Ok, when judgements like this come out from Germany...

    I can understand how they could rule in favor of patent infringment based on a vague stencil drawing of a rectangle.

    Um... isn't it at this point a F*ing guarantee that anything you do on Facebook will be tracked, profiled, mined, sliced and diced, then sold to any bidder?

    [i]Actually[/i], Emil, as you pointed out last week w/ people's phone contact list... [i]anything any of your friend's do on facebook will cause [b]your[/b] data to be tracked, profiled, mined...[/i] I don't have to even be signed up on FB for them to violate my privacy

    The fact that Germany is pointing to the "Like" button as the root cause of evil here is absolutely hilarious (in the sense of we have to laugh to keep from crying). Of course, Our politicians and courts in the US are just remedial and clueless.
    UrNotPayingAttention
  • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

    I click like and my full name appears.
    Not right with the retardz all over the place nowa days.
    MoeFugger
    • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

      @MoeFugger I agree. You don't realize that clicking that little "like" button shows your picture and your name all over the internet--not just to your fb page. I use OnlyMeWorld because they don't ask for personal information.
      erichuhai
      • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

        @erichuhai And it's gonna be only you there. The point of Facebook is social sharing of information; it is not a wire-tap on your phone. No one *has* to declare they like anything on Facebook if they don't want to.
        Henjealy
  • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

    Oh my gawd. People who voluntarily visit facebook and voluntarily post that they "like" something might actually have that fact recorded and used for a couple years?

    THE HORROR!

    Someone needs to spank the german courts into some form of modern sanity. who ARE these judges, and why do they keep issuing injuctions which have to be reversed?
    spark555
  • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

    Waves @
    Friending Facebook
    Emil Protalinski

    FaceBook is nothing more then a scrap book , thats the only purpose that it really serves .You post a doodle a picture and a quirky saying that you don't want to forget . Then d/l it all back in a zipper .
    iguanaware
    • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

      @iguanaware Except that most of your data and all your friends data is being confiscated and abused, to include hoarded and sold to other data goons and the feds... you "LIKE" that?
      SpankyFrost
      • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

        @SpankyFrost I AGREE completely. People are NOT realizing the seriousness of all this. You shouldn't have to use your real name OR e-mail or any other personal information for that matter to use the internet and network effectively. Check out OnlyMeWorld. I use that site now because they don't require such information. It's still in beta but so far I really like the idea behind it!
        erichuhai
  • RE: Germany declares Facebook Like button illegal

    If your looking to <a href="http://www.earnviews.com/">Get Facebook Likes</a> for your fanpage you should be sure to check out http://earnviews.com they have some good services.
    Earn Views