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Operation of Facebook Fan Pages are Permitted in Germany

Admins of facebook fan pages are not liable

by A.M. Schlüter

The Administrative Court of Schleswig ruled on October 9th, 2013 that website operators of Facebook fan pages cannot be held liable under data privacy law. The court has permitted an appeal based on the fundamental significance of the ruling.

The Schleswig-Holstein Unabhängiges Landeszentrum für Datenschutz (the ‘ULD’) had issued orders to several public and private operators of Facebook fan pages. The ULD ordered the operators to deactivate the fan pages under threat of a fine. Three affected companies mounted a fight over it.

The Schleswig Administrative Court then had to decide whether the operators of Facebook fan pages could be held jointly liable for the data processing carried out by Facebook, and ruled in favor of the fan page operators. Facebook Ireland Ltd., also invited to the proceedings, and which is responsible for Facebook’s data processing activities within the EU, promoted this view as well.

The reasoning of the court has not yet been made public. However, the court did in fact see the owners of company fan pages as simple users of Facebook and not as clients, i.e. not as parties responsible for company sites hosted by Facebook. Of course this raises the question of where the line is drawn between Facebook and an Internet provider that hosts company websites. Whatever the final outcome of the appeal proceedings will be, it will be of considerable significance to data privacy within companies.

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