Transfer Pricing Associates

Germany's Qualms with Facebook

post Monday December 5, 2011



Due to its strict data protection laws, Germany has forced Facebook to modify several of its privacy functions to be able to offer its site legally to German users.  About 25% of German citizens currently use Facebook, albeit with a few modifications that make it more difficult for Facebook to store users’ data. 

One concern that the German government had with the social networking site was the fact that Facebook stores users’ personalized profile information.  More specifically, the German government has serious issues with the fact that any user logging into Facebook can be tracked by the company for the next two years.  Facebook’s storage of information of users for such an extensive period violates Germany’s strict data protection laws. 

These concerns plus other legal issues pursued by the privacy commissioner of Hamburg concerning facial recognition data and the storage of data by Facebook of people that don’t even have accounts caused a bit of a legal battle between the social networking giant and the German government.  In October, Facebook defended itself in German parliament and throughout the hearing, Facebook pledged its commitment to data protection and transparency. 

Currently, Facebook’s Term’s & Conditions statement contains special provisions for users in Germany.  These modified provisions include a more limited use of the site for German users and statements that when changes to the website’s privacy or data storage functions change, users must delete their accounts if they do not agree with the changes, and if they do not, this action is regarded as an acceptance of the changes.

So, does the information and profiles created by Facebook users classify as a creative work that could be considered intellectual property?  From the German government’s perspective, the data stored about users definitely does classify as intellectual property, and some that needs to be controlled under stricter regulations.  

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