• Germany's news in English

Facebook to give German state privacy exemption

The Local · 27 Oct 2011, 19:00

Published: 21 Oct 2011 11:26 GMT+02:00
Updated: 27 Oct 2011 19:00 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Thilo Weichert, who leads the state’s data protection efforts, said in August that the site’s “like” button violated German privacy laws because it allowed Facebook to track members’ interests without their consent and sent the personal data to the United States.

But in a private meeting between Weichert and Richard Allan, Facebook’s head of privacy policy in Europe, the US internet giant offered to shield visitors to websites operated from Schleswig-Holstein from having their data sent to the United States. It also provided a full accounting of how it collects and uses users’ data, public broadcaster NDR reported on Friday.

Although the full details of the arrangement are not yet clear, it appears the exemption would be unique. It would cover people who click the “like” button on various websites employing the feature. Facebook would identify those accessing the site from Schleswig-Holstein by sorting IP addresses, NDR reported.

Although Weichert had previously expressed scepticism that anything would come from the meeting, he said the agreement if implemented would “certainly be a great success.”

“For the first time, Facebook really understood what our legal arguments and technical problems are,” he told NDR.

But in a statement sent to The Local after the NDR broadcast, Facebook said it wanted to avoid a patchwork of regional exceptions.

"We would like the (state data protection office) to lift their threat of action against some organizations in Schleswig-Holstein using our services. We are therefore open to considering reasonable measures that will help to resolve this situation such as the provision of more detailed information about how aspects of our service operate to ensure that it is fully transparent to people who use it but the goal is not to create specific solutions for Schleswig-Holstein."

The social network has continued to face criticism from other German political leaders despite agreeing last month to a voluntary code of conduct to protect Germans’ privacy.

In the Tageszeitung newspaper on Friday, Hamburg data protection head Johannes Caspar said he was ratcheting up pressure on Facebook over its facial recognition technology.

Story continues below…

“The time for negotiation is now over,” he told the newspaper, calling on Facebook to seek explicit consent from users for the service, which can automatically recognize faces in photos and add people’s names to them.

He threatened legal action if his office didn’t receive “clear confirmation” that Facebook would address the issue.

The Local/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

12:25 October 21, 2011 by freechoice
by tracking where you are posting from, you have already violated Germany's privacy laws.
15:04 October 21, 2011 by catjones
DL will have to beef up its anti-American-technology department. One way to reduce unemployment.

Like all the other hysterical reactions: not one single victim has arose.
19:38 October 21, 2011 by Gretl
As an American Facebook user, I still haven't figure out how my liking my friends posts has violated my privacy....Wow, I "like" your recovering from your seriious illness. And?
09:17 October 22, 2011 by hankeat
Germany is always jealous about American technologies. They always make excuses to anti American websites. They should spend their time to improve their own technologies in stead of to suppress other people technologies.
22:13 October 29, 2011 by PYorck
@Gretl It isn't really about people who actually click the button. "Like" buttons embedded in third party pages track all Facebook users who visit the page - even if they are logged out.
Today's headlines
Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd