Liking things on the internet may be illegal in Germany.
More specifically, liking things on Facebook; German websites were ordered to shut down Facebook fan pages and remove “Like” buttons from their own websites on Friday, for fear that both are in violation of German and European laws.
The order came from the data protection commissioner of the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Thilo Weichert, who explained the following:
“Whoever visits Facebook.com or uses a plug-in must expect that he or she will be tracked by the company for two years. Facebook builds a broad individual and for members even a personalized profile.”
Such profiling, which includes IP addresses of those visiting external sites that use “Like” buttons to promote content, is then passed to U.S. offices, he said. Websites that don’t comply with the order and find themselves offering the chance to be Liked after the end of September could find themselves fined up to 50,000 euros (over $70,000).
Facebook, however, disagrees with almost all of Weichert’s complaints. A spokesman explained that the company “delete[s] this technical data within 90 days… in keeping with normal industry standards,” adding that they are in full compliance with European data protection laws. However, according to the official call to deactivate Facebook analytics in Germany, this is “only the beginning of a continuing privacy impact analysis” of the social network giant, and a matter that is ongoing. Time for Facebook to try and make its case to the German authorities, I suspect.
Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.