Rhineland-Palatinate: State government should present social media concepts

The state government of Rhineland-Palatinate should explain again after four years why and on what legal basis it uses Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for its public relations work. The state data protection officer Dieter Kugelmann told the German press agency that he wanted to request new social media concepts from the state chancellery and state ministries in October.

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“Government agencies should have the possibility of modern public relations,” said Kugelmann. “But you also have to explain what you think is necessary and on what legal basis you use Facebook or Twitter.” Authorities would have to explain to what extent activities on such Internet platforms are actually necessary to fulfill public tasks.

“Some ministries use social media platforms rather little, others more intensively,” said Kugelmann. “There are certainly reasons that we would like to know.” Most recently, the State Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information in Rhineland-Palatinate requested such social media concepts in 2016. “Four years is a long time, especially on social media,” said Kugelmann.

The data protection officer pointed out that, following a decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in June 2018, public bodies that operate a Facebook page have a data protection responsibility insofar as personal data is processed by visiting these offers. “The fan page operators therefore need a legal basis for processing the usage data and must also fulfill all other obligations as the person responsible,” explained Kugelmann. The data protection agency then published a revised one in March of this year Framework of action for the use of social media by public bodies.

“The state is forcing citizens to sell their data to the USA,” said Kugelmann, referring to the commercial use of user data by the network platform operators. “When Mr. Meier watches a press conference of the state government about the reintroduction of lynxes, he receives advertising on Facebook about lynx animal care,” said Kugelmann as a joking example. “That’s exactly why we’re trying to contain that.”

All public authorities, including the police and local government, should think about it and shouldn’t let things rest, warned Kugelmann. The state government must urge the social media companies that data on the use of their offers may not be transferred to the USA. Finally, the Federal Administrative Court made it clear in September 2019 that the data protection supervisory authorities can take action against the operators of Facebook pages if data protection is violated when operating these offers.

Kugelmann suggested that all state governments in Germany join forces and talk to Facebook. “Facebook is a hard-core company,” said Kugelmann. “But when all the German state governments and the Federal Press Office say” we need a new contract, you have to move “, then we have the hope that something will be changed.”


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