German government pushes back on call to close Facebook page

February 27, 2023 GMT

BERLIN (AP) — The German government on Monday pushed back against a demand by the country’s data protection commissioner to take down its Facebook page over data privacy concerns.

The commissioner, Ulrich Kelber, said Wednesday that he had given the government’s press office four weeks to shut down the page.

“All public agencies have a responsibility to uphold the law in exemplary fashion,” Kelber said. “The result of my assessments is that this is currently impossible when running a fan page because of the wide-ranging processing of users’ personal data.”

He argued that people who run such Facebook pages and the social network’s owner, Meta, are jointly responsible for what is done with users’ personal data, and that the government was unable to prove that data protection principles — a deeply held concern in Germany — were being adhered to.

The government will use the coming weeks to examine Kelber’s decision carefully and decide on its next steps, spokesman Wolfgang Büchner said.

“We are of the opinion that Facebook alone is responsible for its data processing under data protection law,” he told reporters in Berlin. He added that obtaining legal clarity is important for all concerned.

“From our point of view, our Facebook presence is an important part of our public relations work which we would like to stick with for the time being,” Büchner said. He argued that social media also offer an important platform to combat disinformation directly in a time of crisis.