EN: No fan of fan pages - Data protection authorities may prohibit the operation of fan pages

2B Advice
In a clarifying ruling, the Federal Administrative Court has further defined the responsibilities of an operator of a Facebook fan page. The pending proceedings concerned an administrative act of the Independent State Centre for Data Protection Schleswig-Holstein (ULD) vis-à-vis an operator of a Facebook fan page. As early as 2013, the ULD prohibited the operator from running a fan page because Facebook had collected an unknown amount of data through the fan page. The operator was initially successful in opposing the deactivation order.

In 2018 the Federal Administrative Court submitted the case to the European Court of Justice, which decided that the operator of a Facebook fan page is jointly responsible under data protection law (see the report from June 6, 2018) because the operation of the fan page is the reason that those data subjects are visiting Facebook, and therefore the operation of the fan page forms the basis of the data processing.

The binding ruling of the European Court of Justice has now led to the ruling of the Federal Administrative Court. The latter referred the proceedings back to the court of lower instance, the Schleswig-Holstein Higher Administrative Court.

What is interesting about the decision is that the Federal Administrative Court in its ruling expressly approved the option of prohibiting the operation of the fan page as an effective means of guaranteeing data protection. The deactivation order by the ULD was proportionate in the present case.

Furthermore, the Federal Administrative Court clarified that the supervisory authorities may proceed and must take into consideration the effectiveness of their prosecutorial discretion. The supervisory authorities can directly contact the operator of the fan page, even though the operator has no influence whatsoever on the data collected by Facebook, and do not have to contact Facebook or its national companies first.

It will now be interesting to see how the data protection authorities will position themselves vis-à-vis public and private operators of Facebook fan pages in the near future.

One thing's for sure: Fan page operators should make themselves familiar with the data processing that takes place on their fan pages.

If you are unsure about how to handle your own fan page, we would be happy to advise you.

Photo: © ilro - Fotolia
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