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5 Jan, 2013 14:56

Germany won’t be friends with Facebook unless privacy policies are changed

Germany won’t be friends with Facebook unless privacy policies are changed

Facebook may pay a €20,000 ($26,000) fine unless it allows German citizens to create anonymous accounts on the social network. A state data protection agency said that Facebook’s refusal to allow pseudonyms on the site is a violation of German law.

“It is unacceptable that a US portal like Facebook violates German data protection law, unopposed and with no prospect of an end,” data protection commissioner for the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, Thilo Weicher, said in letters addressed to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Dublin-based Facebook Ireland Ltd.German law states that all media services must offer users the ability to use a pseudonym wherever such an option is possible and reasonable. An initial injunction was placed against Facebook in mid-December giving the company two weeks to change its policy.Although the threat prompted Facebook to seek legal protection at an administrative court in Schleswig-Holstein, the site will likely not meet the agency's demand any time soon.A Facebook spokesperson said the orders were without merit and a waste of German taxpayers’ money. He added that the company would fight the charges vigorously, the Guardian reported.The company said in a statement that the pseudonym law is “not applicable to Facebook” and “infringes on higher ranking of European law.” The site went on to say that it would still alter its privacy plan even if the law was applicable, because Facebook’s “real name culture” is part of its “mission of trust and security.” The social network’s lack of cooperation came as no surprise to Jörg Hladjk, a lawyer specializing in data protection at Hunton & Williams in Brussels. “I think it is not very likely Facebook will change its business model for one country, or even just one region in Germany…from a business perspective, this does not make a lot of sense,” he told the Guardian. 

No stranger to controversy

Facebook has found itself embroiled in a number of privacy-related disputes in Germany in recent years. In 2011, Schleswig-Holstein banned local organizations and companies from using Facebook’s 'like' button, claiming it allowed the site to monitor users.The same year, Hamburg’s data protection agency ruled that Facebook’s facial recognition feature violated German privacy laws.In 2012, a Berlin court ruled against Facebook for how it uses members’ email addresses to solicit new members.