This article is more than 1 year old

German watchdog rips off Facebook's thumbs after online fracas

The ‘Gefällt mir’ button – nein danke

Five German companies have removed Facebook’s “like” button from their websites following pressure from the niftily-named Consumer Advice Center of North Rhine-Westphalia (Verbraucherzentrale NRW).

Two weeks ago, Belgium’s data protection authorities said the social network was breaking national and EU law by tracking users on third-party sites.

Now the German state-sponsored consumer group has also weighed into the fray by targeting the other websites directly.

The Verbraucherzentrale NRW “persuaded” travel website HRS, Nivea, ticket and events dealer Eventim, and fashion sites KIK and Peek & Cloppenburg to remove the thumbs-up button, explaining that it was in breach of the German Telemedia Act.

According to the consumer watchdog, Facebook uses cookies to automatically track website visitors, whether or not they click the offending button, and whether or not they even have a Facebook account.

The failure of the websites to allow visitors to opt out or to inform users of the practice is a breach of data privacy law, according to the German consumer group.

Peek & Cloppenburg, along with its online shop, took a bit more persuading than the others, and the organisation had to file a court case to finally get a thumps-down for the thumbs-up.

Payback, a German subsidiary of American Express, is another hold-out and still displays the “gefällt mir” button. If visitors click on the Like button on the Payback website and are logged into Facebook, Payback posts appear in their newsfeed.

A quick gallop through the other sites reveals that although there are links to Facebook pages the “like” option has been removed. Fashion website KIK now has a “activate Facebook” button where visitors can expressly opt-in to “like” the page.

Verbraucherzentrale NRW will continue to pursue Payback through the courts, arguing that “a mere reference to the provider in its privacy policy that such forwarding of data occurs on Facebook, is not enough. A passage in the small print that the company has no influence on the scope of the data collected by the social network is not a sound alibi”. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like