German government organizations have until the end of the year to shut down their Facebook pages after the data protection commissioner discovered that the social network had not changed its practices to comply with German and European laws on privacy protection.
In a letter to government departments and agencies earlier this month, Commissioner Ulrich Kelber said Facebook had provided no way to manage pages for institutions, which users can subscribe to by clicking “J ‘like’, in an EU-compliant manner.
Kelber added that the Partyline Clubhouse app, the TikTok music video app and Facebook’s Instagram site also appeared to have similar shortcomings and recommended that government organizations stop using them until his investigation is complete.
“We updated our Page Insights supplement and clarified the accountability of Facebook and website operators in late 2019,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in an email. “Questions related to the transparency of data processing have been taken into account.”
The official German government Facebook page has over a million subscribers, and the platform has become an increasingly important tool for reaching citizens who are less likely than in the past to follow mass media where governments advertise.
Kelber said it was impossible to manage a fan page in such a way that the personal data of subscribers would not be transmitted to the United States. Under EU law, personal data can only leave the EU for a jurisdiction with equally strict data protection rules, which is not the case for the United States.
The government press office had tried to obtain additional guarantees from Facebook, but the American company had not provided them, he added.
“With the continued violation of personal data protection, there is no time to waste,” Kelber wrote to government organizations. “If you have a fan page, I highly recommend that you deactivate it by the end of the year.”
© Thomson Reuters 2021