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Germany has a long history of protecting its citizen’s right to online privacy. A quick glance through the statutes will reveal for example that Germans can ask Google to pixelate their homes on streetview (god forbid some random map-browser should identify your dirty net curtains).
While studies show that Germans are still big users of social media, Facebook faced a serious problem on Friday as the state of Schleswig-Holstein announced a blanket ban on the use of the "Like" button.
The ban, which will be enforced from 30 September 2011, will come with a hefty fine attached.
Sites registered in the state could face charges of up to €50,000, although there is currently some confusion over alleged plans to impose the rule on all accessible sites, or indeed how this could possibly be enforced.
According to the ULD – Germany's Independent Centre for Privacy Protection - the "Like" button's ability to track user movement online:
“Infringes upon the Telemedia Act (TMG) and against the Federal Data Protection Act and the country's data protection law in Schleswig-Holstein”
The ULD also claims that "Like" violates various EU data protection laws, although Facebook have strongly rebuked these claims and reiterated their commitment to deleting backup data in line with standard industry practice.
It’s an interesting new chapter in Facebook’s ongoing battle with privacy concerns worldwide, and it’s also interesting to note that the rule has been applied to the "Like" button. Currently there’s no mention of Google's +1 functionality, or indeed the search giant's massive tracking efforts worldwide.
As multichannel marketing efforts become increasingly commonplace, tracking movement both on and offline has become more important than ever. The loss of this functionality this could pose a serious threat to Facebook’s ability to generate revenue in Germany.