German State Bans Facebook Pages, Like Buttons

facebook-banThe Independent Center for Privacy Protection (ULD) in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein has demanded local websites to remove their Facebook Pages and remove any Like buttons on their websites, ZDNet reported. The companies were told they have until September 1 to comply or will face fines of up to €50,000 (about $72,000 U.S.).

ULD Commissioner Thilo Weichert for 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 complaint is that these plugins and pages track users for up to 2 years, recording users interactions with web pages, where they go beyond the initial page and what they do on all pages visited.

In Germany, many Facebook offerings are breaking 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.”

Restricting just the actions of companies operating in the German state gives their competitors an unfair advantage. Social share buttons like “Tweet This” or “Like” help companies gain recognition and traffic that leads to sales.

Having the government restrict this is not only dangerous, but restraint of trade. When the profits of businesses drop, they pay less taxes and employ less people, further depleting their own economy.

The ULD is trying to get all locals to boycott the buttons.

Facebook stated they were compliant with EU privacy laws. The sharing of information with friends who may not be directly connected to the content creators is a popular aspect of social networking, and Likes of specific content helps to deliver what people like and want. While Weichart sees them as Facebook profit centers, most others see it as a better way to communicate.

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