Facebook fan page operators not responsible for user data, German appeals court confirms

But a German data protection commissioner called the decision 'a catastrophe and a setback for data protection'

Facebook fan page operators are not legally responsible for the personal data of visitors to their pages, but Facebook is, a German appeals court ruled.

Businesses or other groups who create and administer Facebook Pages to build relationships with their customers or audience are not responsible for how the personal data of visitors to the pages is processed, because they have no influence on the technical and legal aspects of the data processing by Facebook, the Higher Administrative Court of Schleswig-Holstein said Friday.

The fact that fan page operators receive anonymized statistics about Facebook users does not make them share a data protection responsibility, the court said in a news release. This means that the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ULD) for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein is not allowed to order fan page operators to deactivate their pages for data protection law violations, it added.

The Higher Administrative Court confirmed an October 2013 ruling by the Administrative Court of Schleswig-Holstein. That court also ruled that Facebook fan page operators are not responsible for the way Facebook processes the personal data of people visiting the pages.

The ULD started ordering companies in 2011 to deactivate their Facebook fan pages or face a fine of up to €50,000 (about US$64,700). The authority argued that Facebook violated German data protection laws by processing personal data of German citizens and said that companies operating fan pages are at least partly responsible for the processing of personal data via those pages.

ULD head Thilo Weichert was disappointed by the decision and called it "a catastrophe and a setback for data protection."

The verdict gives governmental and commercial operators who use "illegal portals from the U.S." such as Facebook provisional legal certainty while it leaves users out in the rain, Weichert said.

The court said that those affected by possible privacy violations should file a complaint against Facebook. However, the court failed to specify if complaints should be filed against Facebook Inc. in the U.S., Facebook Ltd. in Ireland or Facebook Germany, the ULD said.

In Germany, several lawsuits against Facebook Ireland over privacy matters were rejected by courts that argued that because Facebook's European headquarters is located in Ireland, Irish law applies. However, another German court ruled last year that German data protection law does apply to Facebook, contradicting the other decisions.

The door to irresponsibility on the Internet will remain wide open if Friday's verdict remains intact, Weichert said. The ULD will wait for the full written verdict to determine if it will be useful to file an appeal with Federal Administrative Court, he said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments
cmo-xs-promo

Latest Videos

More Videos

I couldn't understand one things why on earth people only talk aboutimpact of digital transformation on banking and finance field instead...

Rajesh Acharya

Digital take-up and experiences help drive Suncorp's solid FY21 performance

Read more

Good afternoon,This is a complaint of the process of refunds which does not comply with Australian legislation. Despite a exhaustive req...

shiree Gilroy

Catch Group combines commercial and marketing role

Read more

I really appreciate your article. Love your Article. By reading your article, its created an idea in my mind about loyalty strategy to ke...

Jack Reacher

Report: Marketers failing to realise the benefits of customer loyalty programs

Read more

One month’s research and we’ve handpicked this generation’s 50 most talented Women CEOs, leading the top multinational companies around t...

Vaishnavi Pillai

Women in leadership the focus on International Women’s Day

Read more

Great post!

deen8

What felix Mobile is doing to keep customer support cost-effective

Read more

Blog Posts

When friction can be a brand’s best friend

I always enjoy those oft-forgotten, in-between moments in any experience. These moments are not necessarily part of any defined experience per se. They likely wouldn’t show up in an organisation’s plans or ideas to help make the customer journey or user flow as simple, easy and seamless as possible.

Rich Curtis

CEO, FutureBrand A/NZ

How much attention should we be paying to the ‘attention economy’?

There’s been a lot of buzz in the advertising industry lately about what’s coined the ‘attention economy’. And it’s fast becoming the new battleground for media channels to prove their wares and to develop and espouse new attention metrics.

Nickie Scriven

CEO, Zenith

Sometimes the best solutions are some of the most counterintuitive

Exceptional CMOs do exceptional things for themselves and for those they inspire. At your best you are creative, innovative and inspirational. We have a problem though. We now live in a corporate world that demands sensibility where everything you do is measurable and stakeholders demand predictability – the antithesis of breakthrough and transformation.

Hamish Thomson

Author, former regional president and global brand head, Mars Incorporated

Sign in