Google Inc (GOOG) & Facebook Inc (FB) In Privacy Row With Germany

Both Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) have faced thousands of inquiries into the protection of users privacy over the years. They are a logical target given the amount of user data they collect, use, and save each day. Google is presently facing a coordinated effort by six separate privacy commissioners who believe the U.S. based companies are not in compliance with Europe’s more stringent privacy protection policies.

Google Inc (GOOG) & Facebook Inc (FB) In Privacy Row With Germany

Experience has shown that “Google will keep making attempts to delay investigations through continuous correspondence and always freshly packaged arguments,” Peter Schaar, Germany’s federal data protection commissioner, said in a report yesterday. This came on the heels of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) being labeled “impertinent” by Thilo Weichert, the privacy regulator for the German state of Schleswig- Holstein.

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has not flown under the radar regarding privacy either. Last year saw the company being forced to delay the implementation of facial recognition software into its platform. The software would have allowed Facebook to create a database of users faces from the  photos they post. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) was subjected to an Irish privacy audit because that is where their European headquarters are located.

A German appeals court this week rejected a bid by Weichert’s agency to force Facebook to allow users to register under pseudonyms. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has been waging an aggressive battle against users using pseudonyms in the last years. German officials argued that failing to allow fictional accounts was a violation of free speech laws though the court disagreed saying that Facebook’s base in Ireland allowed them to be held to the lower standards of privacy protection.

“We’re seeking to have a constructive dialogue with all groups, also with our greatest critics,” Facebook said in a statement. “Dialogue means: one shouldn’t just talk about Facebook, but also with Facebook. Facebook maintains that it is simply being demonized and that the size of the company is the real reason it is forced to justify its practices as often as it has.”

After recently changing its privacy policy, not unlike Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has also placed themselves under the microscope of European privacy officials.

“In updating the Microsoft Services Agreement we did not change our privacy policy,” said Robin Koch, a spokesman for Microsoft in Brussels. “We are confident they will find Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s long-standing commitment to privacy has not changed.”

Those investigations are expected to last through the summer.

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About the Author

Brendan Byrne
While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala. To contact Brendan or give him an exclusive, please contact him at

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