The Federal Press Office has announced that it intends to ignore an order issued by data protection commissioner Ulrich Kelber for the time being. Kelber had required the federal government to shut down its Facebook presence within four weeks on data protection grounds.
Public relations vs. data protection?
After a lengthy dispute the Federal Data Protection Commissioner, Ulrich Kelber, has ordered the Federal Press Office to shut down the operation of the German government’s Facebook presence within four weeks because it violates both the DSGVO and the new Telecommunications Telemedia Data Protection Act. Kelber sees the reason for this in the fact that Meta processes and transfers personal data without sufficient consent. At a minimum, the German government should have entered into an individual processing agreement with Meta, but this was not done.
The Federal Press Office now counters that the Facebook page is an integral part of the public relations work – and should therefore remain in operation for the time being. This could be seen as a statement that the interest in information outweighs the data protection rights of the users. On the data protection situation itself, however, deputy government spokesman Wolfgang Büchner was only cautious: “At the heart of the matter is the question of whether operators of a Facebook page can be held responsible under data protection law for the data processing carried out by Facebook.” Against this background, Kelber’s decision is to be examined closely. The government is also keeping open the option of a lawsuit.
Responsibility only with Meta?
In this regard, the German government is of the opinion that only Meta is responsible for the data processing and in terms of data protection law. Against this background, it is not to be expected that the notice will be accepted. Since it is directed against an authority, Kelber may not order direct enforcement of the ban in the event of a lawsuit by the federal government. It is therefore to be feared that a long legal battle will ensue until the site is either taken offline or permanently operated in a legally compliant manner.