Facebook Cookies Raise The Ire of German Officials

By Jennifer Moire Comment

The relationship between Germany and Facebook couldn’t be called warm before, and now a watchdog group in the country is expressing concerns over the social networking site’s use of cookies.

Specifically, the Hamburg Data Protection agency says that Facebook is breaking the law by tracking subscribers after they close their account.

According to The New York Times, German authorities are concerned that Facebook is creating user tracking profiles, created when cookies are installed when a Facebook account is opened, and some remain after an account is closed.

If that’s the case, the practice is unlawful if users aren’t alerted. The cookies can remain in place for up to two years.

In a statement on the agency’s website, Johannes Caspar, the agency’s head, said:

Arguments that all users have to remain recognizable after they leave Facebook to guarantee the service’s security can’t stand up. The probe raises the suspicion that Facebook is creating user tracking profiles.

In a statement, Facebook said that it “does not track users across the web,” and uses cookies to personalize content or for safety and security reasons.

The company is willing to engage in a technical discussion to explain how and when cookies are used on Faceboo, a step the German watchdog group calls “positive.”

According to the Times, both Ireland and Norwegian officials have expressed similar concerns over Facebook’s alleged breach of privacy.

This isn’t the first time that a European country, or Germany, has tousled with the Palo Alto-based social network.

Earlier this year, a German state shut down Facebook fan pages and urged the removal of like buttons from web sites, saying they lead to profiling and violate privacy stipulations.

The German parliament isn’t liking Facebook too much; the government pursued a law this year banning employers from checking out candidates using Facebook profiles.

Finally, Mr. Caspar expressed concerns over Facebook’s facial recognition software earlier this year, saying the biometric data was a violation of both European and German privacy laws.

What do you make of the German authorities’ stance on Facebook?