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Cyber paranoia? German state bans the Facebook ‘Like’ button

Annie Wakefield
Digital Marketing Manager
23 August 2011

A German state has taken the first step to protect the privacy of its citizens through banning the ‘Like’ button. State institutions in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany were ordered to shut down their Facebook Pages and remove the “Like” plug-in from their websites last week.

Thilo Weichert, data protection commissioner for the Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (ULD) made the announcement through a press release on Friday 19th August 2011. All institutions in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein have until 30th September 2011 to take down their Facebook Pages and deactivate the ‘Like’ plug-in on their websites or face a €50,000 (£44,000) fine. While only applicable to institutions in Schleswig-Holstein, how long will it be before they attempt to roll out the ban to rest of Germany?

In what is seen as a violation of German and EU data protection laws, analysis has indicated that Facebook builds profiles of users and non-users based on the data collected from the use of the ‘Like’ button. Weichert urges people to refrain from clicking on the social plug-in and states that “Whoever visits facebook.com or uses a plug-in must expect that he or she will be tracked by the Facebook for two years”.

Facebook retaliated with a statement confirming that the company can see only minimal information such as the IP address of users who click the ‘Like’ button and that this information is deleted within 90 days, thus upholding normal industry standards.

The “Like” button is a way for people to share information, nonetheless it is their personal choice whether they do so or not. It brings many positive aspects to businesses, adding value to brands and has enabled the start of a two-way communicative relationship between companies and their customers. However, the issue of privacy continues to be a point of contention within the social media industry with many questioning Facebook’s use of the use of data it contains on its users.

It’s not the first time that German officials have battled with Facebook over the infringement of user’s privacy. Only this month did the data protection supervisor in Hamburg clash with the social media giant stating that Facebook’s automatic photo-tagging feature violated European privacy laws.

Guaranteed the discussion on the issue of privacy will not end here.

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