German Minister Demands Facebook Cease Plans To Share Data

Germany’s consumer protection minister is expressing her concerns over Facebook’s privacy policy, and has written an open letter to the social networking company. Ilse Aigner is worried about Facebook’s recent announcement that changes will allow the site to share personal information with “pre-approved” third-party web sites. This sharing of information has had its share of concern around the web, and the fact that now a government official is addressing it may be worrying Zuckerberg and co.

Facebook has defended its position, stating that users can opt out of sharing their data. That does mean that by default, users’ data will be accessible by third-party sites. The only reason I can see that Facebook would take such a risky move in terms of bad PR is that the final service offered to users will be great, or they are going to make a lot of money by selling this data. Certainly, Facebook doesn’t refer to their changes as “selling data”, and probably have plans to allow users to get customized versions of sites based on their preferences, thereby improving their web experience. But nonetheless, at the end of the day, this is what a lot of Facebook users have been worried about: their intimate data being spread across the web. Also, a recent Sophos poll revealed that 95 per cent of Facebook users oppose the privacy changes.

“I was astonished to discover that, despite the concerns of users and severe criticism from consumer activists, Facebook would like to relax data protection regulations on the network even further,” she said. “Networks such as Facebook link millions of people across national boundaries, and it is for this very reason that particular importance must be attached to protecting privacy.”

While certainly not meant to be humorous, it’s a bit funny that Ilse has threatened to shut down her own personal account if Facebook does not stop the changes. As a person with political power, I guess that does some damage to their reputation but I wonder if she’ll succumb to a phenomena we talked about a month ago: trying to quit Facebook and failing.

Publish date: April 9, 2010 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT