Facebook privacy ultimatum in Germany

HARRO TEN WOLDE AND NADINE SCHIMROSZIK
Last updated 09:43 28/08/2012

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Germany's biggest consumer lobby group believes Facebook is violating privacy laws with its new app centre and has set a deadline for the social network operator to fix it, or potentially face legal action.

The German federation of consumer organisations said on Monday the social network was giving away customer data via its new app centre without notifying users.

It will consider legal action against Facebook if the site fails to fix the problem by September 4, a spokeswoman said.

The deadline comes just weeks after the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information said he would reopen his investigation into Facebook's policies on tagging photos, retaining and deleting data and the level of control users have over their information.

Two years ago Germans, wary of any invasion of privacy due to memories of the Nazis' Gestapo and East Germany's Stasi secret police, requested in droves that their homes be deleted from Google's Street View, which allows users to see street scenes on Google Maps and take virtual "walks" on computers.

Facebook was the first American company to debut with a value of more than US$100 billion in its initial public offering in May, buoyed by its global user base of almost 1 billion.

But it has shed almost 60 percent of its value since then amid an uncertain sales outlook.

The social network is under pressure to boost advertising revenues, but doing so is a delicate exercise as it must avoid giving users the impression it is invading their privacy by storing information about them and passing it on to advertisers.

An Irish watchdog, responsible for ensuring that Facebook complies with European and Irish data protection because Ireland is the headquarters of Facebook's non-US business, will determine by early October whether Facebook will face legal action under European privacy laws.

A spokesman for Facebook Germany said the company was looking into the case and declined further comment.

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- Reuters

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