Don’t mess with the privacy of German citizens, is the message from
the head of the Hamburg office for data protection. State official
Johannes Caspar has reportedly initiated legal proceedings against the
social networking behemoth Facebook, claiming the company illegally
obtained data from German citizens not affiliated with the site, which
boasts more than 500 million users worldwide. The AP reported Caspar is
suing the company for what could result in tens of thousands of euros
for gathering and holding the data.
In a statement, Caspar said he believed Facebook’s practices to be
against German data privacy laws. "We consider the saving of data from
third parties, in this context, to be against data privacy laws," he
said. After the filing of the complaint, Facebook has until Aug. 11 to
respond, which would determine whether the case moves forward.
"Although there are also other social networks that have such
friend-finding functions, they do not allow the permanent storage of
other people’s data."
In an interview with the AP, Caspar claimed to have received numerous
complaints from Germans who did not have an account with the site but
had received information from Facebook after the company acquired their
names and e-mail addresses from contacts who did have accounts. The
news organization also received a response from Facebook concerning the
allegations. A statement from spokesman Stefano Hessel acknowledged the
company is currently reviewing the complaint and would respond to it
within the given time frame. "Millions of Germans come to Facebook each
day to find their friends, share information with them and connect to
the world around them," the statement added.
If Facebook doesn’t have a friend in Germany when it comes to data
privacy, it’s not alone: In June, search giant Google gave in to German
demands to cede to regulators the data it accidentally collected over
WiFi while gathering information for Google Maps. Google’s Street View
cars unwittingly collected 600 gigabytes’ worth of fragmented e-mail,
Web browsing and other data from unsecured WiFi networks in 33 regions,
including Germany, France and Spain.