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German state bans the Facebook Like button


No Likes allowed

The north German state of Schleswig-Holstein has banned the use of the Facebook Like button.

The Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (ULD) under Commissioner Thilo Weichert announced the ban in an official press release on Friday, 19 August. The ULD explains: “Whoever visits 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. Such a profiling infringes German and European data protection law.”

The ruling requires any websites operating within Schleswig-Holstein to deactivate any Like plug-ins, as well as shut down any fan pages. Any site owners not complying by 30 September 2011 could face a fine of €50,000 (£44,000). Meanwhile, the ULD urges web users to “keep their fingers from clicking on social plug-ins such as the “like”-button and not to set up a Facebook account if they wish to avoid a comprehensive profiling by this company.”

A history of privacy

A Facebook spokesman said they “firmly reject” the ULD’s claims, as only minimal information is transferred by the Like button, which furthermore is deleted after 90 days. However, it’s not the first time attention has been drawn to strict German privacy laws. National data protection official Johanned Caspar recently wrote to the social media site, demanding it stop its facial recognition tagging feature. Back in January, Google Analytics was banned over fears it tracked user web behaviour.

Richard Frost, managing editor of theEword commented: “Privacy is of course a major concern these days. However, unlike browser cookies or facial recognition, the use of the Like button is an entirely personal choice; banning it seems a little over-cautious.”

Written by Rachel HandRachel Hand


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