On August 19, 2011, the Data Protection Commissioner’s Office of the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein (“ULD”) ordered all businesses in that state “to shut down their fan pages on Facebook and remove social plug-ins such as the ‘like’-button from their websites.”  Although this warning is specific to Facebook users, the regulator’s explanation of its motives reveals a fundamental concern about common data analytics practices:

“By using the Facebook service traffic and content data are transferred into the USA and a qualified feedback is sent back to the website owner concerning the web page usage, the so called web analytics (Ger.: Reichweitenanalyse).  Whoever visits facebook.com or uses a plug-in must expect that he or she will be tracked by the company for two years.  Facebook builds a broad individual and for members even a personalised profile.  Such a profiling infringes German and European data protection law.  There is no sufficient information of users and there is no choice; the wording in the conditions of use and privacy statements of Facebook does not nearly meet the legal requirements relevant for compliance of legal notice, privacy consent and general terms of use.”

For those reasons, “ULD expects…website owners in Schleswig-Holstein to immediately stop the passing on of user data to Facebook in the USA by deactivating the respective services.  If this does not take place by the end of September 2011, ULD will take further steps,” including by imposing fines.