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German government banned from operating Facebook page

February 22, 2023

Germany's data protection authority has been calling for the government to shut down its Facebook pages. Now the dispute could drag on into the courtroom.

Networking Services Logos Facebook app is seen through a magnifying glass
According to the data protection authority, it was not possible to operate a Facebook fan page that adhered to the lawImage: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/imago images

Germany's Data Protection Commissioner Ulrich Kelber demanded on Wednesday that the federal government stop operating its Facebook page. 

A letter to the German government's press office (BPA) about this was sent out at the beginning of the week. The press office has four weeks from receipt of the notice to close the page or file a legal objection to Kelber's decision.

Kelber justified his decision on doubts about the page fulfilling all data protection requirements. On Wednesday, Kelber pointed to the "extensive processing of personal data" of Facebook users, which made it impossible to operate the page in compliance with data protection laws.

What did Kelber say?

"All authorities have a responsibility to comply with the law in an exemplary manner," Kelber said. According to the results of his analysis, this is currently impossible when operating a Facebook fan page because of the extensive processing of users' personal data.

"I think it is important that the state is accessible via social media and can share information," he said. "But it may only do so if the fundamental rights of citizens are respected."

In the dispute, which has been ongoing since 2019, Facebook owner Meta had repeatedly pointed out that the operation of Facebook fan pages was compatible with the law. On Wednesday, a Meta spokeswoman said social media platforms and channels such as Facebook pages enable businesses and organizations, including ministries and government agencies, to communicate with people. 

"It is important to us that these organizations can continue to use social media in accordance with the law," Kelber explained that it was the press office as the responsible party who had to ensure that the principles of the data protection law were being observed. The office had not been able to provide such proof in the proceedings "to the supervisory authority's conviction."

As of early Wednesday afternoon, the federal government's Facebook page was still up and running. 

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los/sms (dpa, AFP)