German Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner has written an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, expressing her concerns about Facebook’s plans to further relax data protection regulations on the social networking site.
Nevertheless, the ending of the open letter is somewhat amusing.
“Should Facebook not be willing to alter its business policy and eliminate the glaring shortcomings, I will feel obliged to terminate my membership,” writes Aigner.
Curious to see how Facebook will respond to her threatening to quit the social network – we’ve contacted the company to find out (update: Facebook statement below).
You can read the English version of her letter in its entirety hereunder, courtesy of Spiegel Online:
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,
I use the Internet every day, both professionally and privately, and am a member of several social networks, including Facebook. Social networks are an enrichment and it is difficult to imagine our lives without them. Networks such as Facebook link millions of people across national boundaries, and it is for this very reason that particular importance must be attached to protecting privacy. As you know, I, in my capacity as Federal Minister of Consumer Protection, am striving to ensure that personal data on the Internet is protected. Private information must remain private – I think that I speak for many Internet users in this respect. Unfortunately, Facebook does not respect this wish, a fact that was confirmed in the most recent study by the German consumer organisation “Stiftung Warentest”. Facebook fares badly in this study. Facebook was graded as “poor” in respect of user-data policy and user rights. Facebook also refused to provide information on data security – it was awarded a “5” (= poor) in this category as well.
It is therefore all the more astounding that Facebook is not willing to eliminate the existing shortcomings regarding data protection, but is instead going even further. Decisions such as this will not engender trust in an enterprise in the long term.
– Facebook must ensure that the personal details of all members are subject to a high level of protection.
– Personal data is not allowed to be automatically passed on to third parties for commercial purposes without consent. Private data may only be passed on and used for commercial purposes with the consent of the persons involved. Enterprises such as Facebook bear a particular responsibility due to the fact that users, in particular young users, are not aware that their personal profiles are to be used for commercial purposes.
Should Facebook not be willing to alter its business policy and eliminate the glaring shortcomings, I will feel obliged to terminate my membership.
Federal Minister of Consumer Protection
Update: statement from Facebook’s Public Policy Communications Manager Andrew Noyen:
“We’d like to thank all of the users, advocates and experts, including Minister Aigner, who participated in our fifth comment period last week, which resulted in thousands of responses. We’ll carefully review the feedback we received and keep users fully informed about next steps. We hope that Minister Aigner and all of our users in Germany and around the world are encouraged by the openness and transparency we have and will continue to provide into Facebook’s governance. We also commit to continuing to offer easily accessible tools so people can control how they share their information and with whom.”
If you’re interested in this topic, be sure to reach Michael Arrington’s post titled: “Reputation Is Dead: It’s Time To Overlook Our Indiscretions”. And tell us what you think.