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Weichert: "Facebook must budge considerably"
After the announcement of the Unabhängige Landeszentrum für Datenschutz (ULD) to take action against social plug-ins and fan pages of website owners in Schleswig-Holstein starting October 2011, the home affairs and justice committee of the Schleswig-Holstein parliament invited representatives of Facebook and ULD to exchanges opinions. Facebook claims that they comply with the data protection standards in force. From the side of the parliament committee the expectation was delivered to ULD not to impose sanctions against private Facebook-pages.
The head of ULD, Dr. Thilo Weichert, comments this as follows: "Up to now only an exchange of opinions took place. That Facebook starts taking up talks is a first thin edge of the wedge, but did not change anything for the moment as regards the technical and legal evaluation of ULD. Before using plug-ins and fan pages of Facebook in compliance with data protection law, the company must budge considerably. The solutions suggesting a double click in some cases in which an informational page opens and consent is collected is definitely moving into the right direction, but only half-way: the creation of a profile by Facebook cannot be prevented in such a way if one wants to use the plug-in. Additionally, a valid consent requires that the user knows what they consent to. Since Facebook has not yet revealed what they use user data for, relevant information is still missing."
ULD has pointed out to the home affairs and legal committee of the state parliament that starting October not each and every website owner in Schleswig-Holstein will be sanctioned. Priority will be given to public institutions as well as large private providers.
In so doing, the opportunity and proportionality principle will be applied. The argument that actions against private businesses will lead to competitive disadvantages Weichert does not accept: "At this point institutions which obey to law and order – in line with the said understanding – do have a competitive disadvantage. This should be neither in the interest of politics nor trade associations. In the medium-term it is expected that those will suffer a disadvantage which continue to use Facebook, because they are signalizing to the user that they do not care as much for data protection."
The claim expressed at the committee hearing that a political solution on a national or European level must be found was opposed by Weichert: "The data protection provisions of the federal state and in Europe are well-known and are implemented by ULD. A really bad experience would be the result and trust in the rule of law of the administration would be damaged if data protection authorities would only become active in minor cases, but waive action against big companies with market power. We can only enforce data protection credibly "in microcosm" if we also take actions against structural massive scale infringements of the right to informational self-determination."
ULD today met with representatives of Facebook and had an open and constructive discussion. ULD has not received sufficient information on the issues addressed and criticised in its analysis yet. ULD and Facebook have agreed to further and timely information exchange. Facebook has assured a fast reaction and assessment of ULD’s analysis.
ULD has received hundreds of inquiries and mails after publishing its working paper. Answering these will take some time due to the huge uptake. ULD is with respect to its proceedings in close contact with other data protection authorities in Germany. A European exchange is initiated. Some data protection authorities are supporting the approach taken by ULD. Others are currently investigating the legal framework conditions and legal consequences.
Further information and current FAQ (frequently asked questions) concerning this issue are available at
For inquiries please contact:
Unabhängiges Landeszentrum für Datenschutz Schleswig-Holstein
Holstenstr. 98, 24103 Kiel
Tel: 0431 988-1200, Fax: -1223