The Federal Press Office in Berlin is refusing to close its Facebook fan page and has filed a lawsuit against an order by the Federal Data Protection Commissioner. The data protection commissioner had demanded that the operation of the federal government’s Facebook page be discontinued. Now the court is to rule on the matter.

Background: Data protection concerns about the federal government’s Facebook fan pages.

In posts on its fan page, the German government usually provides information about its activities and views several times a day. A month ago, the Federal Data Protection Commissioner, Ulrich Kelber, ordered that the page no longer be operated. In doing so, he referred to investigations by his authority and a brief report by the Data Protection Conference, in which the state data protection commissioners are represented. Kelber is of the opinion that it is not possible for an authority to operate the site in a manner that complies with data protection regulations, since comprehensive personal data of the users is processed and, above all, processing of this data takes place in the USA as a so-called third-country transfer.

Facebook fan page remains in operation for the time being

The Federal Press Office is now taking legal action against the order of the data protection commissioner. Until a court clarification is reached, the Facebook presence will remain an “important component” of the Federal Press Office’s public relations work, as a spokeswoman emphasized. The federal government sees the fan page as a “constitutionally required mandate to inform citizens about the activities, plans and goals of the federal government.” In order to reach citizens, she said, it is necessary to be guided by their actual media usage.

Outlook: Legal clarity for the operation of Facebook pages

The lawsuit before the Cologne Administrative Court makes it possible “to create legal clarity for the operation of Facebook pages in a kind of test case,” said the spokeswoman for the Federal Press Office. She said the office believes that Facebook alone is responsible for data protection issues as a platform, not the government as the owner of the page. The decision is to be welcomed because it also creates more legal certainty for companies when using facebook fan pages.

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