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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.

Matt Owen

Published 22 August, 2011 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

203 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

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SanDiegoSeo

Wow this really will limit the ability of companies in Germany that would like to market themselves through social media seeming how this is one of the main ways to engage and reach your social media audience. Good point on the google +1 look forward to seeing what happens with that.

over 5 years ago

Corinna Witt

Corinna Witt, Owner at Corinna Witt : e-conceptory

Thankfully, the ban only applies to companies in the state of Schleswig-Holstein so far and not the entire country. This is bad enough, though and hopefully other states won't take similar action which in my view would considerably constrain the competitiveness of German companies in social media. Particularly in the travel industry, most German companies have a presence on Facebook and even generate bookings directly from the platform - one source of income which would be lost in a market that increasingly moves online. Not to mention the opportunity to engage with guests before or after their stay and turn them into loyal customers.

over 5 years ago

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