German state bans Facebook 'Like' button

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The German state of Schleswig-Holstein has ordered organizations to remove the Facebook 'Like' button from their websites and shut down fan pages.

The Independent Center for Privacy Protection (ULD) says it's taken the measure because information on 'Likes' is sent back to Facebook in the US and used to create a personal profile, contravening Germany's tight privacy laws.

"Whoever visits facebook.com or uses a plug-in must expect that he or she will be tracked by the company for two years. Facebook builds a broad individual and for members even a personalised profile," says the ULD in a statement.

"Such a profiling infringes German and European data protection law. There is no sufficient information of users and there is no choice; the wording in the conditions of use and privacy statements of Facebook does not nearly meet the legal requirements relevant for compliance of legal notice, privacy consent and general terms of use."

The ULD has ordered website owners in the state to deactivate the services by the end of September or face a fine of up to 50,000 euros.

"ULD has pointed out informally for some time that many Facebook offerings are in conflict with the law. 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," says head of ULD Commissioner Thilo Weichert.

"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."

The ULD says this is only the first step in a continuing privacy impact analysis of Facebook applications in cooperation with other German data protection authorities.

ULD's full privacy evaluation of Facebook is here.