German Ministries to Quit Facebook Over Privacy Concerns

German Ministries to Quit Facebook Over Privacy Concerns

The relationship between governments and social media keeps deteriorating around the world. From Nigeria to India to Russia, the brawl is taking different turns daily. While the bone of contention has been governments’ desire to control what people post on social media for some countries, it has been centered on privacy concerns for others.

Last month, Nigerian government announced its decision to outlaw the use of Twitter following the microblogging app’s removal of president Muhammadu Buhari tweet that violated its policy. Russia also passed a legislation mandating social media platforms to register in the country by January 2022 or face punitive measures. In India, the government introduced new rules governing social media platforms, requiring them to appoint an India-based grievance officer, who would be responsible for acknowledging the complaints or requests from the government, or from ordinary users, within 24 hours. Failing to comply could result in criminal prosecution.

In the US and Europe, the squabble has been how the social media companies handle users private information. It has resulted in increasing antitrust probes, and now some of the affected countries are taking new steps to register their displeasure.

Reuters reported that German government organizations have until the end of the year to close their Facebook pages after the data protection commissioner found the social network had failed to change its practices to comply with German and European privacy laws.

In a letter to government departments and agencies earlier this month, commissioner Ulrich Kelber said Facebook had provided no way to run pages for institutions, whose feed users can subscribe to by clicking “like”, in an EU-compliant way.

Kelber added that partyline app Clubhouse, video clip app TikTok and Facebook’s Instagram site also appeared to have similar shortcomings, and recommended government organizations stop using them too until his inquiry was concluded.

“We updated our Page Insights supplement and clarified the responsibility of Facebook and website operators at the end of 2019,” a spokesman for Facebook wrote in an email. “Questions related to the transparency of data processing were taken into consideration.”

The German government’s official Facebook page has over a million followers, and the platform has become an increasingly important tool for reaching citizens who are less likely than in the past to follow the mass media where governments advertise.

Kelber said it was impossible to run a fan page in such a way that followers’ personal data was not transmitted to the United States. Under EU law, personal data can only leave the EU for a jurisdiction with equivalently strict data protection rules, something that is not the case for the United States.

The government press office had attempted to get added guarantees from Facebook, but the U.S. company had failed to provide them, he added.

“Given the continuing violation of personal data protection, there is no time to waste,” Kelber wrote to the government organizations. “If you have a fan page, I strongly recommend you switch it off by the end of the year.”

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