A German State which Unlikes Facebook
- Monday, 12 September 2011 16:22
Here's an interesting entry of the Personal Democracy forum which I missed while I was on holidays (Holidays are spelled with a capital letter because they are Holy).
Apparently, while I was gone, the Facebook button “Like” was made illegal by the German state of Schleswig-Holstein: the state has in fact ordered all government offices to remove the button from their web presence and shut down any Facebook fan pages.
Understandibly, it pissed the Germans off. In fact, Thilo Weichert, head of the office for data protection in Schleswig-Holstein, issued a press release declaring that the feature gives Facebook the chance of collecting information on German citizens for the next two years, violating German data privacy laws. Websites that don't comply with the take-down order could face a 50,000 Euros fine.
Jeff Jarvis decided to dig in by speaking with Carl Sjogren, Product Manager for Facebook Platform, and Stefano Hesse, Facebook chief European spokesman. Here's his take on the matter:
In the case Weichert seems to be aiming at, If you are not signed into Facebook, your IP address will be sent back to Facebook but then your IP address is sent back to the servers of Google+ buttons, comment systems, and ads of all types. "That's how browsers work," Sjogreen said. "We don't use that information in any way to create a profile for the user, as has been alleged here."
Facebook send sites data in aggregate so they can see, for example, click-through rates for the "Like" button in various pages. Facebook erases IP data after 90 days. It does something else to further anonymize I hope to tell you about later.
"The only time 'Like' button information is associated with a particular person is when you are signed into Facebook and click," Sjogreen said.
There's misinformation involved, argues Jarvis, who has debated Weichert in a panel on privacy and doesn't see any violation of privacy.
Weichert bases his decision on the grounds of a violation of privacy laws that comply to the European data protection directive, a EU directive that regulates the processing of personal data. Guidelines, however, are nonbinding, and data privacy laws mayvary widely across Europe - Germany, though, is well known for the restrictive laws on privacy.
Here's Facebook official statement as reported by the Washington Post:
"We firmly reject any assertion that Facebook is not compliant with EU data protection standards. 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."
Is Facebook to be trusted? We'll inquire and let you know.
Credit: Antonella Napolitano for the Personal Democracy Forum