Disliking “Like” in Germany

There’s a hubbub brewing over privacy and Facebook in Germany — and, not for the first time, there’s misinformation involved. So I got on the phone to Facebook to get technical facts.

First, the news: Thilo Weichert, head of the office for data protection in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, issued a press release (conveniently translated into English) attacking and essentially outlawing the Facebook “Like” button on sites, telling them to take down the button — and, oddly, their fan pages — and threatening them with 50,000€ fines. He declared that “Like” violates German and European law because it sends data about users back to Facebook in the U.S. He went so far as to advise German users not to click on “Like” and even not to set up Facebook accounts.

I contacted Facebook and just spoke with the head of the platform, Carl Sjogreen, and the chief European spokesman, Stefano Hesse, to understand what really happens. This is what Sjogreen said:

Obviously, when you click on a “Like” button, you are telling the world you like something and so, of course, your identity and your affection are recorded and published at Facebook. If you are signed into Facebook when you visit a site with the “Like” button, obviously, Facebook’s servers will act on knowing who you are because it will tell you which of your friends also publicly liked this site.

In the case Weichert seems to be aiming at, If you are not signed into Facebook, your IP address will be sent back to Facebook but then your IP address is sent back to the servers of Google+ buttons, comment systems, and ads of all types. “That’s how browsers work,” Sjogreen said. “We don’t use that information in any way to create a profile for the user, as has been alleged here.”

Facebook send sites data in aggregate so they can see, for example, click-through rates for the “Like” button in various pages. Facebook erases IP data after 90 days. It does something else to further anonymize I hope to tell you about later.

“The only time ‘Like’ button information is associated with a particular person is when you are signed into Facebook and click,” Sjogreen said.

I see no violation of privacy, no sneaky stealing of user information worthy of this action and press release – which, by the way, Weichert issued without taking to Facebook. Indeed, Hesse told me that Facebook has been working with Weichert’s counterpart in Hamburg and that that office, he says, is pleased with what Facebook is doing.

But Weichert is a grandstander. I saw that first-hand when I debated him in a panel set up by the Green party in Berlin, where he attacked not only Google but his constituents — the people he is supposedly trying to protect — who use it: “As long as Germans are stupid enough to use this search engine,” he spat, “they don’t deserve any better.” He went farther, comparing Google with China and Iran. “Google’s only interest is to earn money,” he said, as if shocked. That theme continues in his Facebook attack, where he complains that the company is worth more than $50 billion. No, he’s not from the Communist part.

Earlier today, I went to search GoogleNews for “Facebook” and “Schleswig-Holstein” to find news on the event but found something else interesting, which I discussed — to considerable controversy — in a Google+ post: A politician from Schleswig-Holstein just resigned in shame after confessing to an affair via Facebook with a 16-year-old girl. To me, there’s an obvious paradox there: Aren’t government officials trying first to protect the privacy and thus safety of our young people? Yet here is a government official exploiting a young girl via Facebook. Facebook is not the threat here; the government official is. In my earlier post, I said that in some states in the U.S., this would be statutory rape. Much upset ensued. But I still don’t get it. Who’s protecting whom from whom?

This is why I focused so much on Germany in my book, Public Parts, because it is grappling with privacy and technology in ways that are similar to other cultures, only amplified and skewed.

In any case, I wanted to get to the facts here and that’s why I’m posting this.

  • German Angst meets FUD.

  • Matajari


    The paedo from Schl Holstein has a mandate in the Schl Hols Congress and held a high position in the CDU Party in Germany. He was not a public official. But even if he was I don’t see your point. So this public official did something bad, are other public officials not allowed to do their job?

    This official btw lost his job because his relationship was ratted out by some of his oponents to a tabloid. Pretty old school Journalism. So there is also no “he was unmasked by the new media”- angle to the story.

    I think you were rightly critized for that comparison. It makes no sense.

    As to Facebook if it is true that Facebook don’t use the IP adresses of non-facebook users Weichert is on the wrong track here. If they, what I would suspect actually use it…. He has got a point from a European Data Protection law standpoint. I stress European here, because there is a directive dealing with that and to only focus on Germany doesn’t seem particularily fair.


    • “paedo” and “bad”, both are words than don’t fit in this context.
      A grown-up having a relationship with a 16-year old, in Germany, doesn’t do anything legally wrong.
      Why he had to go then? Well, he was pretty high up in the food chain of the conservative party and especially in that party, such an “affaire” is just morally/ethically unwanted.
      I bet you, that there would not have been much more than a two days of media coverage if he was in the green party (for example)…

  • German Angst again. First they managed to make Google Street View unusable with all the “pixelations”, and now this. I just don’t understand anymore what’s going on in Germany, it’s ridiculous.

    • Burro alemán

      …so do most Europeans with your “Tea baggers”, “Americans for Pornography” (or however it is called, I do refer to that astroturf organization of the Koch brothers) and your Public Health Insurance stuff.

      Fact is, we have different cultures in our continents, albeit I acknowledge that most Germans don’t understand the web at all, and especially most politicians. (Rule of thumb, the more conservative and law-and-order, the more ignorant they are towards web issues)

      See it as you like, but we see personal data as protection-worth issue, and generally there is a tendency to request that companies are in the need to explain to interested customers what they do with their personal data.

      This is, generally speaking, consensus in Western European countries.

    • Andy Freeman

      Do not use the phrase “tea baggers” unless you are trying to insult people.

      Insulting a large fraction of the US population is usually a bad idea, even if you are doing so to suck up to another fraction of the US population.

      In practice, Europeans understand US politics about as well as Americans understand European politics.

      • Burro alemán

        @Andy: Agreed (for the last sentence).

        I faintly remember having read “tea baggers” even in honorable US media (that I would not suspect of insulting even people that will never read their publications) therefore I had used the expression.

      • Andy Freeman

        > I faintly remember having read “tea baggers” even in honorable US media (that I would not suspect of insulting even people that will never read their publications) therefore I had used the expression.

        There’s your mistake, “honorable US media” has a history of insulting large groups of Americans. That’s part of why few Americans care about the economic problems of said “honorable US media”.

  • The German government does not understand the web or the internet. They have shown this on basically every occasion. It’s good to have someone there watching over peoples’ privacy (otherwise companies might get the impression they can do what they like with the data) but obviously they have no idea what they are doing.

    The root of this problem is that the people in power in Germany are relatively old, they are very badly informed (and apparently they don’t listen to their advisors), and they don’t take the Internet seriously as a medium and a cultural enabler. It is not their fault that they are old, but they are to blame that they are arrogant enough to think it’s basically okay to be ignorant about the Internet, as if it was some kind of trend or hype that will just go away in a year or so. You can see this ignorance and arrogance in basically all of their statements and extremely poor decisions concerning the Internet, and it makes me very angry. (I am a German citizen.)

  • Matajari

    btw. Just to correct: Weichert didn’t outlaw the like button. He is in his function responsible for applying a law passed by the German parliament. What he did was interpreting and applying this law to the functioning of the like button. So that he “outlawed” it is not a correct way of describing what he does.

    btw.: I support you on Weichert. He is an extremist…. But remember he lived in a dictatorship that did exactly these kind of things for a good part of his live.

    • Thilo Wichert did NOT live in a dictatorship. He was born in 1955, a decade after the downfall of Nazi-Germany.

      Further more it is, in my view, highly debatable if he (or better his bureau) has the competence to have a say in this debate; and I don’t mean competence as in expertise.

    • Sonja

      he lived in a dictatorship that did exactly these kind of things for a good part of his live.

      … West Germany? I’m puzzled.

  • Jeff,

    I completely agree with you on the Facebook matter. Paternalistic consumer protection has gone way overboard with some officials in Germany. (But there are moderate voices, too). Since Weichert’s only authority is Schleswig-Holstein, (the northernmost German state), website owners there now face the absurd threat of beind fined for implementing the Like button whereas their counterparts further (yet) have nothing to fear.

    Since you mention the Hamburg data protection official: He might show a more reasonable stance as far as Facebook is concerned, but he was the one who declared Google Analytics illegal in Germany (for about the same reasons as Weichert with Facebook). He went quiet after a blogger disclosed that his official site was subhosted on a Hamurg site using Google analytics. This goes to show how little thought-through all these actions are.

    However, what I don’t understand is your odd comparison of the Facebook/Weichert issue with the politician who resigned. These issues have nothing in common – no more than your other often-made comparison of Germans hiding from Google Street View but freely exposing themselves naked in public saunas. As far as is public knowledge, the affair which started on Facebook, was a mutual love-affair, which is not illegal between a 16-year old and an older adult, as long as the younger person isn’t subordinate to the older. So the real blame lies with this politician dumping the girl for image reasons as soon he decided to run for office.

  • (Just btw, you can rest assured that this kind of German angst comes pretty exclusively from the old folks in the government, and it is a kind of conservative angst that stems from non-understanding (the old “fight who you don’t know!”). The German people are (mostly) cool about shit, except maybe for the idiots that read Bildzeitung.)

  • Yes, very embarrassing, this. I have taken to calling the country I live in Blurmany, too.

  • I am German, too. And I don’t want to be protected this way. It would be really nice if German politicians and privacy experts would finally understand how the internet works. And that IP addresses are an essentioal part. And that not all web users are DAUs.

    Today I read a nice comparison: IP addresses are somehow similar to license plates. But nobody complains about them. Driving a car means being identifiable anytime and everywhere. In most cases an IP address is only a temporary license plate. But German privacy groups seem to be paranoid as hell as soon as IP addresses are involved. I just don’t get it.

    • Sling Trebuchet

      The IP comparison: Let’s say some organisation sets up cameras everywhere. The cameras record your licence plate and the location/time at which it was seen. The database of your movements is available to whoever wants it for whatever reason.
      Some people would’ get’ that this could be very intrusive.

      Building on that….
      The trend would be for the cameras to also record any faces detected in the vehicles. Facial recognition software and a database of faces would tell ‘whoever’ a great deal about your life.
      As it happens, FaceBook users are curently tagging faces with names on hundreds of millions of photos world-wide. That’s some beast!
      This is where a ‘because we can’ attitude is taking us.

      • Consequentially I should not leave my house at all. Someone could see me, perhaps even more than just once. Perhaps I shouldn’t tell anybody that I exist at all. That would be safe.

      • Sling Trebuchet

        The course of action that you propose seems exceedingly wise. Stay indoors and draw the curtains.
        Alternatively, you could agitate for the activities of the camera operators to be curbed or prevented.

        There is a dead horse. It is named “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”. Look it up.

      • I wouldn’t mind more cameras. Really.

      • um don’t they have automatic number plate number recognition in germany :-)

      • H.

        > I wouldn’t mind more cameras. Really.

        That’s exactly why we need people like Weichert …

    • Fred van der Ende

      I like your comparison to license plates. Isn’t it funny that Germans drive around in cars with license plates that reveal their hometown?

      • Their home district, no the town.

      • RC

        That’s a really bad comparison actually, because you can leave your house and walk around or use a bus, cab, bike… Driving around in a car isn’t mandatory, given you have one at all. You can’t surf the web without an IP though.

      • and dont you have to report to the police when they move house?

      • Gunther

        For sure you do not tell the police in Germany if you move. You tell it your municipality – because (among other things) the distribution of taxes depends on the scale of population. You have just to tell the police your actual residence in certain circumstances if you are a suspect or convicted criminal.

  • Thomaaaas

    You should know that what the man is saying,is not supported by the majority of the German People!! That politician is quite alone with his point of view. Germans are not old, or arrogant , you can’t just say that everbody thinnks what Weichert thinks.

  • Sling Trebuchet

    I still don’t see why you drag in the guy and the girl.

    On the one hand, there is part of German officialdom taking some action against their perception of threat to the privacy of Germans from FaceBook.

    *Entirely* separate from that, there is someone – who happens to be a German politician – having an affair with a 16-year-old. It seems that the affair just happened to have been initiated via Facebook. It seems that such an affair is not illegal in Germany, but the letter of the law and ‘not illegal’ is never a good guide to decent behaviour.

    Any time I see this sort of broad-brush mudslinging imported into a discussion, I always suspect the case of the importer.
    At best it’s a distraction. At worst, it’s deliberate spin.

    • posibly Jeff was hinting at an old boys club covering up for one of there own

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  • Brian

    Are you saying that you went to get facts after you completed your book, or are you just getting more facts to support the facts that are already represented in your book?

    Either way, it’s not about the internet, “facts” (which come down to what people choose to believe), communication, or being “Googley,” as you put it in WWGD.

    It’s about one thing: Control (which privacy provides for, which produces power). The more you know about someone that knows nothing about you, the easier it is to control that person (Murdoch might have messed up, but he understood that much). When was the last time you were able to get extensive detailed information on a world leader – other than a bio in Wikipedia, or through a friend who had a close encounter? When was the last time you met an individual family who had a clear plan for governing itself (yet we expect single humans to run countries effectively)?

    Every company (and family) deals with control – Google and Facebook have just gotten really good at it using algorithms. Their investment would have flopped if they didn’t understand how the human mind works – no different than any large company that understands the basic fundamentals of human needs (i.e. Google = questions, Microsoft = storage, Apple = expression, IBM = brain, etc.). The lines cross, but the fundamentals stand out clearly. I say IBM = brain because of the sale of Lenovo to China, and their recent alleged development of the first microprocessors that mimic a human brain.

    This train isn’t going to stop. Technology increases the speed of human life, which allows some people to “check more facts,” and forces others to rely on information without “checking” it. For Google, Facebook Apple, Microsoft, etc., it simply comes down to controlling information flow, by figuring out what the world wants (using algorithms). The more open we are about it, the more power they will have.

    If you’re ok with a few companies running the world, public is a very good idea.

  • bo

    Jeff, you don’t get it technically, it’s about tracking cookies.

  • another German

    It’s not about “Angst”, it’s about politics. Germany has a large consumer protection and therefore data protection movement for decades. That’s why several projects by government to establish censorship and data retention policies were widely criticized and could not be accomplished. The political parties in power lost reputation because they’ve been accused to not care about consumer protection at all, so they started to look, where they could “protect” some people without changing their policy.

    It’s a red herring, nothing more. Google and Facebook even don’t pay any taxes in Germany, and maybe don’t spend much for the German election campaigns either. So they are easy targets. Bash them and get some cheap credits as consumer heroes. Especially from people who neither don’t know anything about technical details and e.g. believe, that Google Streetview watches your house in real time 24/7. (No kidding. There was even a politician welcoming GSV, because police could use it to do “virtual patrol” and catch some burglars.)

    Sad, that many people in Germany, even civil rights activists, fall into that trap.

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  • Daniel

    The oddest German behavior is the governmental acceptance of ivwbox.de.

    ivwbox.de is a tracking service like Google Analytics, which tracks about every German site you can imagine. From Der Spiegel to ZDF (public-service German television), even some governmental sites (can’t find proof of that, but I remember really having seen and analyzed that). You can’t even see video streams from ZDF if you block ivwbox.de

    Before they mad at Google, Facebook & Co, they should first take a look at what’s happening inside their own country.

  • Stefan Drest

    The girl you are talking about even issued a press release saysing there is nothing negative she can say about the relationship.

    “Facebook is not the threat here; the government official is.”

    This is just stupid.

  • Sascha Stoltenow

    Jeff, which country is home to the worlds largest adult movie industry? Thank you. And no, the fact that this happens in agreement does not change much, as I openly doubt that many of the actors are more mature than the 16 year old in question.

    Speaking of which: the politician did not have to resign from his candidate position because of his relation to the girl, but because this relation put at risk the chances of the party he represented at upcoming elections. Had he had a comparable standing as Clinton had during the Lewinsky affair, he would have had a chance to keep his position.

    With regard to the FB issue, what really strikes me, is the fact that while the state with his law on data retention forces providers to hold telecom data to track user behaviour is here seeking to ban a similar procedure.

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  • bo

    There is a complex legal debate here in Germany, that most US citizens including Jeff seem not to be fully familiar with: The debate is whether an IP adress already is a “personal information” which enjoys very strong protection from our constitution (maybe comparable to your first amandment debates). If it is, than tracking systems like Google Analytics and also iFrame based tracking cookies like the Facebook Like button might violate the constitution. you see the issue?

    • Bryan C

      It’s only an “issue” if you’re one of those who’d advocate stretching the definition of personal information to include things that are not personal and are not information.

    • um ip adresses are transient they are not like phone numbers are there no german CCIE’s that can explain this to the lawmakers.

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  • Funny to witness a certain lack of irony at my German compatriots who can’t appreciate what we call the coincidence of Gleichzeitigkeit

  • Uschi

    @Hans: It’s not the coincidence of Gleichzeitigkeit it is constructed absurdity… =)

  • Tobias from Germany

    The fundamental problem behind all these weird decisions of the german gouvernement is that they just don’t understand how the internet works, how “modern people” use it and how important it is for us. You can see this all the time when you listen to political debates in germany, see politicians or other “experts” in talk shows etc.
    This acutally really annoys me because I have no idea whom i could possibly vote for in the next election. Pirate Party you say? They still have to show someone who I would feel comfortable to represent me.

  • I’ll play the bad cop here and say this: The privacy issue is sooo darn huge that I kinda like having a wingnut out there attacking this issue, so to keep what every thing in the world needs….balance……in perspective….hooray for Crazy Thilo Weichert!

    • Wilma

      Thanks Keith, that’s exactly what it needs: balance in perspective.
      Jeff bases his “research” on the statement of one FB official, which is clearly not how journalists usually work. The whole debate is indeed extremely complex.

  • Hi, I live in Germany as well, and I have to say that I appreciate the strong privacy / data protection laws that state, federal and EU legislation affords me here. It’s great in principle, but it is also absolutely true what has been said here, viz. that too many officials — including the very offices that are in charge of data privacy! — are shockingly ignorant on the subject of Teh Internets. All too often, outdated models of privacy are applied to the online world in absurd ways.

    To protect my own website from various legal repercussions of using the most common Internet services (such as Analytics), I had to include a massive disclaimer, called “Impressum,” which is mandatory anyway. I spent days working on it when I could have been doing my actual job. This is just another example of Germany’s overwhelming bureaucratic demands. But hey, at least they take privacy seriously here. It’s a double-edged sword, I guess.

    • Well, but privacy just for the sake of privacy and is not useful. There always needs to be a balance and not just looking at what might go wrong however small that probability is. IMHO it’s also better to be prepared for something bad to happen and know what to do instead of thinking everything is 150% safe when it isn’t. That’s bad politics.

      • prika

        Privacy is a basic right in Germany and its not about angst – its about not liking to have people/organisations/governments snoop around what you are doing – some call it freedom

        What we need is a balance between facebook.inc and the people – who is gonna fight for that?

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  • I’m German. And I’m puzzled about this typical German bullshit-talks about “Datenschutz” (data protection). Germans wanna design a island of bliss taking all advantages but without consequeneces. These guys are working paternalistic, because they wanna protect the “poor” people from “bad” influences. It’s a typical Germany way not to clear up people, but to put a ban. The case itself is ridiculous, but the sign exemplary.

  • emse

    Jeff, I don’t really think that you get the problem. No offence! The paper published in german describes the technology behind the like buttons. It states that the iframe sets a unique cookie that COULD easily be used to track the surfer even when he/she isn’t logged in or using facebook. The possibility alone is enough. Facebook could surely operate it’s like service without the tracking cookie.
    And it is essential to understand the whole debate about the IP-adresses: it’s like a telephone-number that is used to identify the user. I know (as a webdeveloper) that this 2 technologies are important to web-programming, but they are essentially used in this context to violate the privacy of non-facebook users. That’s the whole point behind this. There is an easy solution to facebook: Remove the tracking cookies and simply don’t track IP-adresses of users who don’t want to use your service.

    • an ip address is not like a phone number thats the issue – of course some govements like China are realy keen on ipv6 as you could have a one to one mapping of ip adresses to people.

      so will Germany Ban IPv6 then

      • Klaus

        Maurice, you know IPv6 Privacy Extensions, don’t you?

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  • There are several things at work here (but connected).

    1. There is some Angst that either you are not in control which might have bad consequences, ususually far in the future (“this will end bad, you will see!”).
    2. Then there is the believe that citizens are in general dumb and need to be protected even from their own actions (or ads especially). You experienced that with Weichert at the the Böll event.
    3. There are data protection laws from way past not adjusted to the new times (and adjusting them will probably result in something like culture war here)

    (and all of this is not good for our future)

    So what Weichert does here is sort of a mix between the last 2. There is this thing that you need to protect consumers and here especially from actions of a third party, facebook. And because he cannot go after facebook he tries to rid them of the customer base. There have been similar ideas at the ministry of consumer protection, asking for cease and desists letters to be allowed to brands who use social networks for ads which do not adhere to german data protection laws (read: Facebook).

    But then he actually simply applies these laws and the result is what we see (I am not a lawyer so I am not sure if their analysis is correct but they at least published a big analysis on the matter with technical details as well as the situation regarding laws).

    Now Germany is somehow split (though I don’t know how big the two sides are, many will be indifferent and will listen more to the panic side). There are the hardliners like Weichert but there are also other people who tend to see the good things about the internet as well. Even politicians and the head of the prime ministers office in Schleswig-Holstein are not really happy about this move as they also start to see Facebook etc. as a means for engaging with the public.

    So things are at least changing a bit, it’s not the 100% bashing of it by politics as it used to be but still it’s bad enough IMHO.

    But it’s good that Facebook explained what they are actually doing. Missing is maybe the question what they do if I am logged in to Facebook and do not click the button. Is something stored? If so, what?

    Still probably all these explanations still do not help against our laws and the attitude here which is a shame.

    I also blogged about german Angst here: http://mrtopf.de/blog/politik-politics/german-angst/ and did a podcast about the ULD/Facebook issue here: http://mrtopf.de/blog/politik-politics/topfshow14/

    (and maybe I should again start blogging/podcasting in english so the rest of the world knows how crazy we are ;-)

  • Alex

    “This is why I focused so much on Germany in my book, Public Parts, because it is grappling with privacy and technology in ways that are similar to other cultures, only amplified and skewed.”

    I think this amplification and skewedness partly stems from a deep rooted resentment against the changes of culture and daily life that these new technologies bring upon Germany, while almost none of these technologies are produced or invented here. They often challenge long established standards (like intellecutal property laws, privacy etc), the way we look upon the world (20 years ago, nobody here would know who Jon Stewart is etc) and thus, they challenge institutions (like certain government agencies, the power we grant them, pollitical parties considering to hold american-style primaies etc).

    And these challenges tend to bother you more, the more stake you had in a future that stays unchanged. Now – being a bit sarcastic – i ask you: where do we find those type of people with that certain type of stakes? In government agencies and political parties. Where do we find the fearmongering? Again, in government agencies and political parties.

  • I just checked ULDs analysis and here is at least something which contradicts what facebook says: They are setting a cookie called “datr” which expired in 2 years. This is also the same across sites. So it’s at least not just storing an ip address.

    (and I see that my previous question is actually answered already in the article)

    • Hermann

      Exactly, but that’s too much research for Jeff as a “J-school prof.” =)

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  • lyecdevf

    I have heard/read many times about Germany cyber paranoia in the last couple of years. It has become basically illigal to run a tor exit nod in Germany, The German social site (StudiVZ) “hacker” comited suicide in jail *caugh killed* and the list could go on…but now finally I see a glimpse of light from there as it has focused in the right direction!. Germany is doing the right thing. It is protecting the young from this disgusting comercialized shithole. I hope Germany will do much more in this direction.

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  • The following facts can easily be confirmed.
    If you simply visit any facebook.com page they insert a persistent cookie named “datr” with a visitor unique identifier and a 2 year expiry date into your browser. If you login to your account on facebook.com you also get a login cookie, “lu”, also with a unique identifier and a 2 year expiry date. They also insert an assortment of session cookies that expire when you unload your browser.
    All these cookies are sent back to facebook whenever you visit a page that contains a “like” button or one of their other beacons. Facebook therefore know the URL addresses of all the web pages you visit that contain “like” buttons.
    You do not have to click a “like” button for this to happen, the cookies are sent back when you simply visit the pages.
    Because the “datr” and “lu” cookies have an expiry date of 2 years these cookies remain in your browser for that time. You only have to have visited a facebook page once in the previous 2 years for your web history to be reported back to facebook.
    Facebook may delete IP addresses they collect after 90 days, there is no way to check if they do. But this is irrelevant to their ability to track people using cookies.


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  • Burro alemán

    My dear (US-)American friends!

    As you may not have noticed, there are some cultural differences between the “old world” and your “new world”. For instance, killing some innocent women and children (eventually, terrorists as well) in a remote country by a remote device, seems not to be obscene for most of you. As well you may have a neutral stance on the fact that authorities or private companies can get hold of our data and do whatever they want with it. (Yes, backed by some fags in the European parliament)

    These are things that most Europeans consider obscene. On the other hands, we don’t see the earth move or mountains crumble when a nipple flashes on TV or someone has a sexual relationship with a teenager, when there is no threat or violence included. (We don’t especially approve that, either)

    We have had our share of dictatorships in Europe in the 20th century, and please accept that we have a tighter grip on personal data control than you have. And although a huge fraction of the computerized population enjoys using Facebook, they mainly have concerns over what happens to their collected data.

    What Mr Weichert has mainly done, was to examine the compliance of using code for the “Like”-button in other websites, with German and European law!

    For those of you who do unterstand German, here is the link that directed my to this page:


    Burro alemán

    • Hermann


    • Marcel

      You see, normally I do not respond to Trolls.

      I’m a German living in Ireland, where the data protection laws are much more lax, from a German standpoint at least (no disclaimer on websites, etc.).

      But, my dear friend Burro, what I’m quite sure about is the fact that the discussion here has nothing to do with cultural differences between the US and the EU, it’s the (by now) age old difference between the Germany of my parents (who are over 50 and have just started using email) and the Germany of those people who use the web on a daily basis, and god forbid, even to make a living. Jeff is pointing out the obvious.

      And it’s always nice to see someone refer to Herr Hitler when talking about the perceived threat of the big bad corporations, isn’t it? Ends any discussion with the Holzhammer straight away.

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  • Peter

    It’s not about the Facebook button in general which tracks only Facebookt users
    but it’s about Facebook buttons using the “iFrame” which allows Facebook to track people (at least their IP and the browser header) who don’t use Facebook , too

    • Klaus


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  • Peter Funk

    I’m a German too. To understand our fears and thoughts you have to learn a little bit about our history: Before 1989 (1945) innocent people could end up in prison simply for using their freedom of speech. Agents of the state security=STAatsSIicherheit=STASI (GESTAPO) could be everywhere and might (over)hear any careless spoken words. These times are not long gone enough and hopefully they will not be forgotten to soon. So many of us germans see any large organization (agency or private owned company) collecting huge databases containing information about our citizens with fear
    because it might be abused sometime in the future. This leads to overreactions and might look paranoid.

    • Andy Freeman

      > Before 1989 (1945) innocent people could end up in prison simply for using their freedom of speech. Agents of the state security=STAatsSIicherheit=STASI (GESTAPO) could be everywhere and might (over)hear any careless spoken words.

      Yes, German govts have a history of doing bad things with information.

      > So many of us germans see any large organization (agency or private owned company) collecting huge databases containing information about our citizens with fear
      because it might be abused sometime in the future.

      So, they object to companies collecting information. That follows from the above “history” only if you think that a future german govt will grab that information from said companies.

      Is it true that one has to tell the German govt where you live?

      • Nico

        Not to the government (you’d have to tell it every 4 years to the then-elected new government), but a public authority named “Einwohnermeldeamt” which is usually run by the county you live in. The government isn’t allowed to use that data (very few exceptions – e.g. the 2011 census).

        But then, there are many other authorities who get information from the Einwohnermeldeamt. Police and courts, state attorneys, of course – that’s clear. But then.. GEZ (not an authority but a by-law authorized institution that “collects” fees for the public-service broadcasting stations), tax authorities… You can deny them to give out your data to political parties, religious organizations etc.

        The control over that data is pretty okay, though I’d really like to see the GEZ having no more right to get information from the Einwohnermeldeamt… :)

        And I’m really afraid that some govt. in the future will try to pass a law to get aaaaaall the data evil companies will have collected till then. Thus, I’m pretty happy that data safety hardliners like Weichert get publicity.

        To the author: As many others said here, you failed here as a journalist. First, because you completely ignored the concern of the ULD about the “datr” cookie – second, because you plainly believe what some Facepalm marketing dude says – third, because you brought the affair of a politician with a teenager (which was a perfectly legal thing, it was rather about the man’s and his party’s public image) into speech which has absolutely nothing to do with the ULDs press release.

      • Seth Cohen

        Dr. Jarvis:

        I agree with Nico.

        To the author: As many others said here, you failed here as a journalist. First, because you completely ignored the concern of the ULD about the “datr” cookie – second, because you plainly believe what some Facepalm marketing dude says – third, because you brought the affair of a politician with a teenager (which was a perfectly legal thing, it was rather about the man’s and his party’s public image) into speech which has absolutely nothing to do with the ULDs press release.

        Also, this seems to really be the “Andy Freeman” blog. What’s up with that?

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  • The whole issue Weichert/Facebook come to an absurd ending, when Weichert really will get in action as he told us: This would mean, that even the Facebook-page of the government of the federal state Schleswig-Holstein (about 12.600 fans) could come to an end, as like as the numerous pages of the public broadcaster NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk, not only providing Schleswig-Holstein, but also Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – other federal states out of the jurisdiction of Weichert). This shows, that the whole initiative can only be seen in political and tactical respects when it comes to provoke real negotiations with Facebook – assuming, that Weichert is not completely out of this world, he in fact is aiming on Facebook and not on the users. Hopefully.

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  • bingfan

    Schleswig-Holstein just stopped a law in Germany that would prohibit online gambling as gambling (and especially advertising for gambling) drives massive tax revenues. So you see what this Facebook thing is about ? They want to protect their advertising revenues & tax base, not consumers. Local Media can’t write about this stuff – then they don’t get any interviews, insider information or advertising any longer, so the only enemy is the “internet” or Facebook.

    • Gunther

      @Bingfan Sorry, this is a kind of conspiracy theory. I am with media in Schleswig-Holstein and there is no problem in fact finding here. There just have to be facts to write about … ;-)

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