Data protection: Federal press office sues against ban on Facebook presence


Because the Federal Data Protection Commissioner of the Federal Government wants to prohibit the operation of a Facebook page, the Federal Press Office has now filed a lawsuit. Now courts are to decide whether authorities can be represented on Facebook without violating the GDPR.

Data protectionists have been arguing for years that data protection compliant operation would not be possible. The core argument: Facebook collects user data, some of which can also be evaluated by the operators of fan pages. Therefore, according to data protection officials, both the Facebook parent company Meta and the fan page operator are responsible under data protection law.

Accordingly, the operators of a Facebook presence – such as the Federal Press Office in the case of the Federal Government – would also have to prove that the GDPR is being complied with. This is something that is practical but impossible.

Federal Press Office wants fundamental decision

Therefore, on February 22, the Federal Data Protection Commissioner, Kelber, asked the Federal Press Office to shut down the Federal Government's Facebook page. “All authorities are responsible for adhering to the law in an exemplary manner,” says Kelber. He also thinks it is important for the state to share information via social media. Only that is only legitimate if the basic rights of the users are respected.

The Federal Press Office is now opposing this. The corresponding lawsuit was filed with the district court of Cologne, a spokeswoman for the federal government confirmed when asked by Heise Online. This Facebook page is an important part of public relations work, and the federal government is fulfilling its constitutional mandate to inform citizens about the work. And that has to happen through media that citizens actually use. The federal government has more than 1 million followers on Facebook.

The court proceedings are now intended to create clarity. According to the press office, Facebook alone is responsible for data protection. Accordingly, the operators would not be responsible for compliance with the GDPR and data protection deficiencies.

Alternatives without court proceedings

According to Heise Online, the Federal Press Office has one for the procedure external law firm. The Facebook page will continue to run until the end of the process.

It is not yet possible to estimate how long the process will take. It is even possible that it will end up before the European Court of Justice (ECJ). But it might be clear before then. This would be the case if Facebook participates in the planned EU-US Data Privacy Framework or meets the requirements of the data protection authorities.