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Tech tour

September 21, 2011

German Consumer Protection Minster Ilse Aigner has met with Facebook managers while on a visit to the US. But the discussions won't continue online as Aigner couldn't be persuaded to reestablish her Facebook account.

Two backlit people use laptops with the Facebook logo in the background
Facebook's popularity carries responsibilities, Aigner saidImage: picture alliance/dpa

After deleting her Facebook profile over a year ago and more recently warning her colleagues in the German cabinet to remove the "Like" button from their websites, Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner met Tuesday with Facebook's spokesperson for global policy, Marne Levine.

The minister called the discussions "open and constructive" and said she emphasized that Facebook and other social networks' popularity mean they have an important role to play when it comes to data protection. She added that the company needed to change how it deals with users' data.

Illustration of a red thumb pointing down over the Facebook logo
Aigner reportedly told her colleagues not to use the Facebook 'Like' buttonImage: di.slik.es/dacebook/DW

"My job as consumer protection minister it to fight for users," she said in an interview with the weekly newspaper Die Zeit. "Can users be sure companies aren't just giving away their data without spending the day reading through privacy agreements? This is an area where I see a lot of question marks when it comes to Facebook."

Safe harbor for online data

Aigner also met with representatives from Google and Microsoft as well as consumer protection groups. Detials of those discussions were not made public.

Aigner also scheduled talks with the US Trade Department over the US-EU Safe Harbor agreement, which allows US companies to opt into upholding European Union data protection.

The European Union is currently reworking its data protection rules. Aigner said she would push for strict bloc-wide rules on facial recognition, geodata and the profiling of individual Internet users. It also remain unclear how the new rules, expected in November, will be applied to international companies based outside of the EU.

Earlier this month, Facebook vowed to stick to a voluntary code that would protect users. Though no schedule was set for the rules to be in place, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said he was satisfied with the company's promise to include data and consumer protection measures in this code.

German data protection officials said they were unaware of what Facebook told Friedrich, adding that their decisions would not be made according to non-binding discussions.

Facebook had previously said it needed to obey only Irish law as it maintained a European headquarters in Dublin.

Author: Sean Sinico (AFP, dpa, AP)

Editor: Cyrus Farivar