• Germany's news in English

Facebook ‘like’ button declared illegal

The Local · 19 Aug 2011, 18:05

Published: 19 Aug 2011 18:05 GMT+02:00

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Thilo Weichert, who works for the data protection centre of the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, said the social network’s application allowing internet users to express their appreciation of something online, illegally cobbled together a profile of their web habits.

“Facebook can trace every click on a website, how long I’m on it, what I’m interested in,” he said. According to Weichert, all the information was sent to the US company even if someone was not a Facebook member.

Saying this contravened both German and EU privacy laws, Weichert demanded websites in Schleswig-Holstein remove the ‘like’ button from their offerings by the end of September or face a fine of up to €50,000.

He said Facebook probably used the data for advertising purposes and provided website operators an analysis of user traffic.

Facebook rejected Weichert’s claim and said in a statement that the website’s social plug-ins were in compliance with European data protection laws.

The company admitted the ‘like’ button could pass on information such as user IP addresses, but said the data was deleted after 90 days as per industry standard.

Facebook users remained in “full control of their data” while using social plug-ins, the statement said.

Just earlier this month, German data protection authorities also said Facebook’s new facial recognition feature was illegal and demanded the social networking site end its use and delete all related information.

Story continues below…

By using state of the art technology, Facebook is able to suggest which friends might be in photos that users upload. But the feature has raised concerns among privacy advocates, who worry the site is saving sensitive biometric data.

DPA/The Local/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

18:58 August 19, 2011 by Englishted
The are some looneys about.

Can I recommend or is that forbidden too ?.
19:13 August 19, 2011 by TheChanger
If I dislike this story am I breaking the law?

Heck, I am probably breaking the law by offering my opinion in this forum as that may lead to some insight as to my habits and feelings.

I think some people have way too much time on their hands and are just looking for that one big case that can make them famous.

Congrats, Herr Weichert, welcome to your fifteen minutes of fame. Hopefully it grants you everlasting love and adoration from millions....although it will most likely end with people saying "Herr Weichert? Who is that?"
19:31 August 19, 2011 by charlenej
There is no legal requirement to join Facebook. You read the terms yourself and you get on with it. If you don't like it, then don't join it.

Germany should just go ahead and ban German Facebook and Google. They are obviously not for them.
19:49 August 19, 2011 by Englishted

Hold on there ! I live here a blanket ban is a bit hard .

Your other point is bang on .
20:54 August 19, 2011 by AbhilashD
So many verbot things. Has the DDR merged into the BRD or has the BRD merged into the DDR?

At the beginning of the movie Sonnenallee, the lead character narrating it remarks that in the DDR, more things are verbot than they are erlaubt.

21:02 August 19, 2011 by catjones
Ever notice germans never use the Reply All button? or, for that matter, the Reply button? For some inexplicable reason they copy and paste an email received into a new email.

If you Like this comment, press any button. If you don't, press the anti-button.
01:10 August 20, 2011 by planedr
How's the Fatherland working out for you all? Must suck to have someone telling you what you can and can't do.
05:11 August 20, 2011 by CaSimone
I don't care if what I am into is tracked. What I DO care about is my choice being made for me, wrong & insane! I like to share what I like, by hitting a "like" button, if that means someone knows I spend time looking at cameo necklaces fine! Let them know! If anything it would serve them better to make a public campaign to inform, but alas it likely they just looking to rake in $$$ with fines. With things like this and backwards GEMA, you can tell they lack IT people, for they lack all internet common sense.
07:29 August 20, 2011 by Slimtots
Thank you CaSimone. I couldn't have said it better. GEMA gets on my nerves!!!
08:05 August 20, 2011 by ECSNatale
I think some of you are missing the point. It isn't the like button on Facebook that is the problem, it is the like button on various websites that, when someone clicks it, sends their date to FB - "whether they are a member or not".

While the idea of privacy on the internet is a silly thing - as soon as one logs onto a computer and goes on the net your info is available to anyone and everyone savvy enough to get it, the idea that business' use the FB like button to bolster their net identity creates a situation where normal people are having their private surfing habits researched. It is not merely a matter of ... hey.. they like us... the entire internet experience is not open to FB.

Perhaps some of you are too young to recognize the benefits and necessities of privacy... but it was a hard fought battle and I am glad that there are people out there looking out for the little guy.
10:23 August 20, 2011 by elNico
Not that I really support the actual banning of FB like buttons, but the tracking may well be in conflict with some laws or some interpretations of them - these are rarely black-and-white issues due to their complexities.

Also, you don't have to click the actual button. If you're logged into FB, it's easy to track your internet travels on any site that has the embed code and link it to your profile directly.

Even if you're not a FB user at all, the same mechanism could still be used to collect data, similar to a lot of ad services.

Whether that bothers you or not is a matter of personal choice, but this could at least make more people aware of it.

As for posts that instantly draw "Fuehrer" and DDR rhetoric - it's a bit moronic.
12:01 August 20, 2011 by The-ex-pat
But the government retaining all our mobile phone usage data, Internet search queries and emailfor, what is it 18 months, just in case we have a terrorist episode in out lives is OK.
12:45 August 20, 2011 by elNico

Is this actually the case at this stage? It's an honest question. I believe you're referring to "Vorratsdatenspeicherung"?

The government doesn't really record any of those things and has no ability to do so (I hope), but would like to force the individual providers to store the data and access it if "necessary".

Personally I'd be totally against that, but I fail to see how it renders this attempt to limit FB data gouging invalid.
15:48 August 20, 2011 by charlenej
I didn't mean "really" ban it. It's what I think they want to do though. It goes against old school German privacy values.

Simone and slimtots - sitting right there in that boat with you. I loathe GEMA!!!

And again, if someone doesn't want to "be tracked" *clutches pearls* then don't join Facebook. Do something else. But stop bothering the rest of us.
16:19 August 20, 2011 by storymann
Facebook and all social networks expose you, your family and friends to an increased risk of menace.

According to Sophos research, users of the Facebook social-networking site are too gullible in giving up personal information, which could make them the targets of identity theft, or worse.

Germans have always taken a more serious and realistic approach to this than Americans.
16:44 August 20, 2011 by catjones
storymann...I believe the correct terms would be paranoid and schizophrenic.
07:23 August 21, 2011 by belladons
No wonder the world is *(&^%$ up...lol.
09:47 August 21, 2011 by taiwanluthiers
I don't understand all this. When you join Facebook I am sure there's something in the user agreement that says something about data collection and things like that, if you don't like it, don't join Facebook.

On the other hand, anytime you log on and post stuff, you are in essence letting the world know whatever you post. Your browsing habits can be recorded whether you know it or not, as that's just the nature of how computer works. You can always use an anonymous proxy to remain hidden. However there are so much stuff out there no one is interested in your family photo.

Banning a feature just because it might be an invasion of privacy is not constitutional as it violates free speech, but then again there are no provision for free speech in Germany.
10:27 August 21, 2011 by storymann
catjones,thank you, your opinion is duly noted.(:
11:03 August 21, 2011 by Saleem Khan
All i can say is....plssssss.....


12:23 August 21, 2011 by Paladin X9
I moved to Germany from the UK because I loved the country and its culture, but this kind of thing gets me pretty worried. This arbritrary banning of things - just one old "Beamter" sitting in his office deciding what millions of people are not allowed to do - has something totalitarian about it. Or maybe Monty Python...

It's the same with the GEMA cutting Germany off from the rest of the world on You Tube, Spotify, Netflix etc. We're getting let behind and our freedoms are being cut.

Glad my business isn't in Schleswig-Holstein. Poor folks up there... Hope this stupidity doesn't spread to the rest of the country. Hope the courts stop this Herr Weichert.
15:00 August 21, 2011 by DavidtheNorseman
@ PaladinX9 - " According to Weichert, all the information was sent to the US company even if someone was not a Facebook member.

Saying this contravened both German and EU privacy laws, Weichert demanded websites in Schleswig-Holstein remove the ¦#39;like¦#39; button from their offerings by the end of September or face a fine of up to €50,000."

If I have signed up for Farmville or Adobe then I have activated an agreement allowing such. As I understand it Weichert's concern is that the app "Like" transmits ALL users (regardless of their agreements or affiliation with FB) information to FaceBook whether they have ever agreed to it or not (you don't need to click the button to be monitored, just on a web page which has the "Like" app on it) and this is illegal under German Law. I suspect FB will bite the bullet and agree to modify the application to only apply to those who have prior agreements with them. I wish more privacy legislation was in place everywhere. At the moment if I want to stalk you (or any of your family) I just pay a large data miner like FB and they give me all of your info including addresses, pictures, habits and in many cases active location through cell phone apps. This is not good and there need to be some rules in the new Wild Cyber West.
02:48 August 22, 2011 by matturn
@AbhilashD: The decision has been made not because the BRD is becoming the DDR, but because Facebook is copying the practices of the DDR. The Stasi never had Facebook's exceptionally powerful intelligence gathering abilities. Who is to say when someone with the Stasi's enforcement abilities will team up with Facebook?
10:48 August 22, 2011 by AKAZ
I am web/software developer and never used Facebook personally, only robotic usage for research. This site is open for all sort of criminal activities. In the age of digital identity, facial recognition your biometric data and behavioural patterns are priceless. This is something that governments should be concerned in a national level. Well done Germany which thoroughly cares about the well being of its citizens. I do admire Germany.
13:29 August 22, 2011 by Asgarli
@AKAZ, I am a software developer too, and I can say that the reason that Germany is so behind (I like German word better - rueckstaendig) in software development, is people like you.
14:54 August 26, 2011 by thomas_w_bowman
While I did not like all of Google's EULA, I still signed up (in Gmail it's fun to draft an email with a keyword like 'Rolex' - and watch the ads on the sides of the screen change to Rolex Ads...).

But the EULA for Facebook demanded so much (including 100% tracking data, etc.) that I declined to sign up.

Sadly, some news sites require Facebook sign in to blog.

I contact them and suggest that they allow other signins, besides Facebook.

Notic that Facebook needs to download a monitoring program when you do sign up (this program does NOT appear on installed Program list, so is not easliy removed).

Just say 'No' to Facebook.
06:36 February 2, 2012 by chirsjason
the lead character narrating it remarks that in the DDR, more things are verbot than they are erlaubt.
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