Facebook strikes German privacy deal

26 January 2011

BERLIN: Facebook is to make minor changes to its Friend Finder service in Germany due to users' privacy concerns.

Complaints about the Friend Finder service led to the social network being put under administrative review by a data protection watchdog last year.

Friend Finder allows Facebook members to connect with each other more efficiently by sending emails on behalf of the site to addresses contained in members' personal email contact lists.

Under the new deal, Facebook will now offer non-members instructions on how to block the site's usage of their email address.

It must also give existing members additional information about how their contacts' email addresses are used by the site.

The review was originally called seven months ago by Johannes Caspar, a Hamburg data protection supervisor.

Other voices, including Ilse Aigner, Germany's consumer protection minister, also publicly criticised Facebook.

German privacy laws are unusually tough, and punishments for breaking them can include fines of up to $410,000 (€300,000, £260,000).

Caspar said: "We hope to carry out the deal fast and we will follow it closely."

In a statement, the Hamburg watchdog added: "Whoever objects, can block the use of his email address in the friend-finding function.

"A more far-reaching solution, like totally abandoning the use of third persons' data, wasn't feasible in the negotiations.

"It also would hardly have been attainable for legal reasons."

Data sourced from AFP/New York Times/Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff