A dispute over the German government’s Facebook presence has escalated. Federal Data Protection Commissioner Ulrich Kelber has called on the German government to stop operating its Facebook fan page within four weeks. He said it was not compatible with current data protection law.
Facebook presence not compatible with data protection
In a statement, Kelber points out that he has already informed the German government or the Federal Press Office, which is responsible for operating its online presences, on several occasions that a Facebook presence is not compatible with the requirements of the GDPR. Kelber on this: “I have long pointed out that the operation of a Facebook fan page [sic!] is not possible in accordance with data protection. This is shown by our own investigations and the short report of the data protection conference. All authorities have a responsibility to comply with the law in an exemplary manner. According to the results of my checks, this is currently impossible when operating a fan page because of the extensive processing of users’ personal data. I think it is important for the state to be accessible via social media and to be able to share information. But it may only do so if the fundamental rights of citizens are upheld.”
For the aforementioned reasons, Kelber has now called on the federal government to shut down the operation of its fan page within four weeks. The page is currently followed by more than 900,000 people. The federal government uses it primarily to provide general information to the public. In addition to information on government work, for example, reminders of historically relevant events or everyday information, such as on emergency services or similar assistance, are also shared.
In addition to a violation of the GDPR, Kelber also found a violation of the new Telecommunications Telemedia Data Protection Act. Both result from the fact that there is no legal basis for the transfer of personal data to the Facebook group Meta. However, this takes place when the offers are used.
Years of dispute over operation of social media presences
Kelber’s current decision was preceded by a years-long dispute with the German government. Thus, Kelber had already pointed out in 2021 that the use of social media presences was not in compliance with the law. The Federal Press Office, which is responsible for this, would have to reach an agreement with Meta that met the legal requirements. However, this has not been done to date. Only the deactivation of Facebook Insights, a function with which determined personal data can be viewed, was switched off for the pages of the federal government. However, that was not enough for Kelber. Now the Federal Press Office has one month to accept the decision or appeal against it.