The Federal Press Office has not yet switched off the Federal Government’s Facebook fan page, despite a long request from the Federal Data Protection Commissioner. Now the controversy comes to a head.

The Federal Data Protection Commissioner Ulrich Kelber has instructed the Federal Press Office (BPA) to stop operating the Federal Government’s Facebook fan page. This was announced by the data protection authority in Berlin on Wednesday. A corresponding letter was sent at the beginning of the week. The press office of the federal government has four weeks from receipt of the decision to switch off.

However, the BPA can sue against the order. In contrast to companies, the data protection officers are not in a position to order immediate enforcement of the ban after an action for annulment by an authority. Therefore, the dispute could continue to drag on.

The order escalates a year-long dispute between Kelber and various authorities. The Federal Data Protection Commissioner is of the opinion that the operation of a Facebook fan page is not possible for an authority in compliance with data protection. In this context, Kelber referred on Wednesday to investigations by his authority and a brief report from the data protection conference, in which the state data protection officers are also represented.

Authorities should behave “exemplarily”.

“All authorities are responsible for adhering to the law in an exemplary manner,” explained Kelber. According to the result of his tests when operating a fan page, this is currently impossible due to the extensive processing of personal data of users. “I think it’s important that the state can be reached via social media and can share information. But it can only do that if the basic rights of the citizens are protected.”

In the dispute, which has been going on since 2019, the Facebook group Meta had always pointed out that the operation of Facebook fan pages was compatible with the law. On Wednesday, a Meta spokeswoman said social media platforms and channels, such as Facebook Pages, enable businesses and organizations, including government departments and agencies, to communicate with people. “It is important to us that these organizations can continue to use social media in accordance with the law.”

Kelber explained that the Federal Press Office, as the person responsible, must be able to prove that the principles of data protection law are being observed. The office was “not able to provide such evidence to the supervisory authority’s conviction” in the procedure.

The Federal Press Office did not immediately respond to a request from the dpa.