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Minister seeks to rip 'Like' buttons off German gov web

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Germany's consumer protection minister Ilse Aigner is once again calling on her peers to ditch the use of Facebook by government officials, citing what she believes are valid "justified legal doubts" raised about the social network.

In a letter to German newspaper Spiegel, Aigner wrote to urge her cabinet colleagues to "no longer use the Facebook button on all official government internet sites under our control".

She cited "an extensive legal probe" to back up her concerns about data protection.

Aigner asked all government ministries in Germany to stop using fan pages on Facebook – a practice that has become commonplace by central and local gov departments in the UK.

The German minister killed her own Facebook profile last year and this isn't the first time she has sounded off against the Mark Zuckerberg-run company.

She complained about tweaks to Facebook's privacy permissions in 2010, after the social network confirmed it would share data with what it described as a small number of carefully selected third-party websites.

Aigner said German politicos should "set a good example and show that they give a high priority to the protection of personal data".

In August, Facebook was criticised by a data protection authority in Germany for siphoning off information about the country's citizens to servers based in the US.

On that occasion the company's "Like" button and "Pages" feature were attacked by data protection officers in the Northern German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Germany's Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (ULD) called on website operators based in that region to "shut down their fan pages on Facebook and remove social plug-ins such as the 'like'-button from their websites".

A source at Facebook later tried to play down the row by pointing out that it was "a really small local data protection authority" in Germany causing a fuss.

Late last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook's EMEA policy wonk Richard Allan was working on a voluntary code of conduct with German officials in a clear effort to appease ministers in Germany who have expressed data protection fears about the popular network. ®

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