German state accuses Facebook of violating privacy


German state accuses Facebook of violating privacy

Warwick Ashford

A German state claims Facebook is violating local privacy laws by not allowing users of the social network to use pseudonyms.

The data protection agency of the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein is threatening Facebook with a €20,000 fine if the social network does not allow Germans to have anonymous accounts.

The threat was made in letters by Schleswig-Holstein’s data protection commissioner Thilo Weichert to Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and to Facebook offices is Dublin, Ireland, according to the Guardian.

Weichert said Facebook’s current rules violated German law by requiring users to provide their identities.

"It is unacceptable that a US portal like Facebook violates German data protection law, unopposed and with no prospect of an end," Thilo Weichert said.

Under German law, media services must offer users the choice of using a pseudonym.

But reports quote data protection legal experts as saying it is unlikely that Facebook will change its business model for one country.

Facebook said in a statement that the case was without merit and a waste of German taxpayers' money and that the company would fight it vigorously.

Facebook announced changes to its privacy controls a month ago to make it easier to manage settings and enable users to review every publicly available image.

The updates included privacy shortcuts, an improved activity log and a new request and removal tool for managing multiple photos users are tagged in.

Facebook has faced continual criticism from privacy groups claiming that its privacy controls were difficult to use and condemning its policy of making user content publicly available by default.

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