German organization claims Facebook 'Like' system could be illegal

Facebook's 'Likes' could have violated Germany's notoriously strict privacy laws, it appears. The Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (ULD) of Schleswig-Holstein has claimed the plugin could have broken privacy rights within the country, as ZDNet reports. Theo Weichert, of the ULD, says the plugin builds a web profile of web habits illegally. According to the ULD, the company could use your 'Like' to track you for up to two years, and potentially longer. Again, according to the ULD, the service builds a profile of those who are not members and a more detailed profile of those who are.

Now, the ULD intends to pursue the matter. Any website hosted in Schleswig-Holstein must have removed the Like button before the end of September, lest they want to incur fines of up to €50,000 (roughly $72,000). They also advise people to avoid using the 'Like' system, and better yet, to avoid using Facebook altogether. The organization points out that while profiles are personal, the service encourages using your real name online. Theo Weichert also had the following statement to make on the subject:

“ULD has pointed out informally for some time that many Facebook offerings are in conflict with the law. 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.”

As would be expected, Facebook rejected the claim that they are illegally documenting usage of the Like system. In an official post on the subject, a spokesperson for the Palo Alto company said the following:

“We firmly reject any assertion that Facebook is not compliant with EU data protection standards. The Facebook Like button is such a popular feature because people have complete control over how their information is shared through it. For more than a year, the plugin has brought value to many businesses and individuals every day. We will review the materials produced by the ULD, both on our own behalf and on the behalf of web users throughout Germany.”

Whether or not Germany as a whole will act upon the findings of the ULD is currently unknown. The probability of it is currently also unclear, but without more evidence that Facebook is acting illegally their claims may be simply rejected by the majority of Germans.

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20 Comments

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I'm so ****ing tired of Germany, the EU and other knuckleheads telling us what we must use and what not. They should let people make their own decisions and turn their brains on. If you don't like or trust Facebook, don't use it - simple!

You can always go back and click all your "Like"'s again, so that you unlike everything you liked before, and thus become untrackable. ;-)

If people don't want their likes trackable, they don't have to click the Like button; it's as simple as that. Stopping Facebook from providing this feature that many, including me, deem great is ridiculous; it doesn't infringe on the privacy of many of us in a way that we care about, and anyone that deems it does doesn't have to click the Like button.

Callum said,
If people don't want their likes trackable, they don't have to click the Like button; it's as simple as that. Stopping Facebook from providing this feature that many, including me, deem great is ridiculous; it doesn't infringe on the privacy of many of us in a way that we care about, and anyone that deems it does doesn't have to click the Like button.

I agree to a point. Facebook should implement a 'on or off' option for the Like feature.

kizzaaa said,

I agree to a point. Facebook should implement a 'on or off' option for the Like feature.

Missing the point, Why should an on off button exist when its your choice to flip the switch in the first place?

Callum said,
If people don't want their likes trackable, they don't have to click the Like button;

I hope you do realize that the Facebook Like button tracks your surf habits on third party websites even if you don't click it. That's what the fuss is about. If you're happen to be logged into Facebook every view (not just click!) of the button will be linked to your profile. Non logged in users will be tracked too but they won't be linked to a profile. This acts similar to Google Analytics which is highly controversial in Germany because of the strict privacy laws.

Callum said,
If people don't want their likes trackable, they don't have to click the Like button; it's as simple as that. Stopping Facebook from providing this feature that many, including me, deem great is ridiculous; it doesn't infringe on the privacy of many of us in a way that we care about, and anyone that deems it does doesn't have to click the Like button.
I feel privacy laws are necessary and used to protect us, therefore any proven violation of them should be treated like any other, however big or liked the business is.

LordBattleBeard said,
I feel privacy laws are necessary and used to protect us, therefore any proven violation of them should be treated like any other, however big or liked the business is.

So things should be done in accordance to how you feel?
Guess that's a perk of being a "Lord"...

Callum said,
If people don't want their likes trackable, they don't have to click the Like button; it's as simple as that. Stopping Facebook from providing this feature that many, including me, deem great is ridiculous; it doesn't infringe on the privacy of many of us in a way that we care about, and anyone that deems it does doesn't have to click the Like button.

That's a rather naive attitude dude. Hey, what's wrong with a simple Like button? Sure, nothing's wrong with that. Behind the scenes you're being web profiled though and without becoming a conspiracy loony this does have implications no one tells you about. Sort of like DDT.

Collection of people data and using it for commercial purposes should be illegal. Period. Corporations like Google and Facebook should be killed off.

Jebadiah said,
Collection of people data and using it for commercial purposes should be illegal. Period. Corporations like Google and Facebook should be killed off.

The same goes for stupidity and stupid people.

Jebadiah said,
Collection of people data and using it for commercial purposes should be illegal. Period. Corporations like Google and Facebook should be killed off.

You do realise that every single Facebook user has a choice whether or not to click the Like button, don't you? If people don't want their likes trackable, they don't have to click the Like button; it's as simple as that.

The Stark said,

The same goes for stupidity and stupid people.

I don't agree with the above user but was it really necessary to attack them for sharing an opinion? Does it serve to stroke your ego and make yourself feel more important?

LordBattleBeard said,
I don't agree with the above user but was it really necessary to attack them for sharing an opinion? Does it serve to stroke your ego and make yourself feel more important?

I don't agree with the above user but was it really necessary to attack them for sharing an opinion? Does it serve to stroke your ego and make yourself feel more important?

Callum said,

You do realise that every single Facebook user has a choice whether or not to click the Like button, don't you? If people don't want their likes trackable, they don't have to click the Like button; it's as simple as that.
You don't have to click on anything. If the webpage you are visiting contains a "Like" button and if you are signed into Facebook, then Facebook can build a profile of what websites you visit and what articles you read. Entirely possible.

yowan said,
Thats stupid

What is stupid? The claim, or the possibility that you could have your likes tracked for two years or more? Or are you saying using Facebook is stupid? Because really, all three are kinda BS.