Facebook's Foe German Minister Urges Government to Quit Facebook

Germany's minister for consumer protection has urged her cabinet colleagues to shun Facebook amid data protection fears. She warned of "justified legal doubts" about the social networking site.

Germany's Consumer Protection Minister is keeping a close eye on Facebook.

Germany's Consumer Protection Minister is keeping a close eye on Facebook.

German Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner has called on her cabinet colleagues to stop using Facebook, reflecting ongoing German concern that the social networking site threatens data privacy.

"Following an extensive legal probe I think it is essential that we should no longer use the Facebook button on all official government Internet sites under our control," she wrote in a letter seen by SPIEGEL. She sent her request to all government ministries at the end of last week.

She added that the ministries should avoid using fan pages, a tool which allows users to access information on an organization. She argued there were "justified legal doubts" about fan pages. She wrote that, "logically enough" her ministry did not have a fan page and did not use the social networking site's "Like" button.

Aigner herself quit her Facebook account last year in a high-profile move sparked by her concerns for data privacy.

'Like' Button Complaints

She wrote that government departments and parliamentarians should "set a good example and show that they give a high priority to the protection of personal data."

She added that Facebook had to respect German and European laws. Her comments follow moves by the state of Schleswig-Holstein, which last month said it aims to ban the site's "Like" button. Critics argue that the "Like" button could allow advertisers to track users' tastes and consumer choices.

Web advocates and bloggers were outraged at the plan, calling it "data protection hysterical."

Germany is notably vigilant regarding the Internet's threat to personal privacy. Global giants like Facebook and Google have repeatedly been in the firing line and the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein even managed to ban Google Street View from its region in 2008.

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