Data Protectionists Critising Facebook's "I like" buttons on Websites

The Independent State Center for Data (Schleswig-Holstein) or Das Unabhängige Landeszentrum für Datenschutz Schleswig Holstein (ULD) critizes Facebook's "I like" button on websites. The criticism is about the lacking respect of data protection policies and gave an opinion on how to remedy the mentioned problems.


After a technical and legal analysis, ULD summons the deletion of the "I like" button from websites. The use of said button infringes the Act on Remote Media and the Federal Act on Data Protection and respectively the State Act on Data Protection of Schleswig-Holstein.

Who is this "ULD"? This has been a body under public law since 2007 and has derived from the State Commissioner for Data Protection (§§ 32 f. LDSG SH).

ULD criticizes in its report that using such Facebook services sends data about the user on traffic and contents to the U.S. Whoever uses Facebook even only once has to reckon with being tracked for the next two years, as ULD notices. Facebook creates extensive personal profiles. Such tracking violates German and European law. As ULD continues, users are not informed about this fact; the wording, i.e. promises, in the STC and data protection guidelines are not even near to conforming to the law.

ULD threatens to fine website owners based in Schleswig-Holstein. ULD expects by late September 2011 that these services be promptly deactivated. Afterwards ULD will initiate misdemeanor proceedings. Such owner will receive a letter informing them of an intended fine and give them the possibility to argue against this. In the case of non-compliance, desist orders will be issued and a fine of up to € 50,000 might be imposed (§38 LDSG SH, §38 V BDSG.

Facebook counters ULD's accusations by complying with European data protection law. When Facebook users visit sites with the "I like" button, Facebook can only see technical details like the IP-Address. These details are deleted within 90 days of collection - as is standard. Personal data of users will not be collected on those who do not click such button.


Action is now name of the game - not only for those in Schleswig-Holstein. Whoever wants to keep using these "I like" buttons has to embed them with legally binding force. The only current possibility is to embed the button as a real graphic and link it to Facebook. The full functionality will be only then revealed when the button is clicked. Technically no data will be transmitted to Facebook until the button has been clicked. The user then has the possibility to voluntarily and intentionally make use of Facebook's total functionality. Further, the ULD demands that the site provider is to warn the user by showing a data protection declaration so that the reader may then decide whether or not to use this functional button. Samples of such data protection declarations are available from ULD - just click this sentence for German samples.

FAQ from ULD

The ULD has published some FAQs in English.

Remarks to some Online Discussions

In forums of computer magazines many persons have discussed this warning. We consider it interesting to share a few thoughts without any further comments.

  • How stupid are web users considered to be? When I don't like Facebook or do not want to tell the world via Facebook that I like an online article, then I will not use that button. Using it or not is absolutely voluntary.
  • What damage is there to recommend something via Facebook, Twitter & Co?
  • When ULD warns on using Facebook, then Google ought to be deleted because you can access websites via their services.
  • Everybody is moaning and groaning about Facebook, Google & Co. but nobody complains about the thousands of cameras installed in public places, tracking down cell phones. Schizophrenia in its purest!


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