The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information [official website, in German] announced Wednesday that he has initiated legal proceedings against Facebook [website; JURIST news archive] for accessing and saving non-users' personal information. Dr. Johannes Caspar [official profile, in German] stated the social networking site could be fined tens of thousands of euros [AP report] for violating Germany's strict privacy laws [materials, PDF; in German]. Caspar was alerted that non-users had been contacted by Facebook because their e-mail addresses were listed in Facebook users' e-mail contacts. He estimates this privacy issue could affect millions of Germans. Facebook acknowledged that they have received a letter from Caspar informing them of the pending legal dispute and plan to respond before the August 11 deadline [Washington Times report].
This is not the first time Caspar has initiated legal action against a popular US Internet company over privacy issues. He recently filed a complaint [Boston Globe report] against Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive], joining many in other countries in contending that their Street View feature violates privacy rights. Facebook has also faced privacy complaints in other countries. In January, the Canadian Office of the Privacy Commissioner [official website] announced that it would launch a new probe [JURIST report] of Facebook to investigate privacy issues in response to complaints. Last year, five Facebook users sued the company in a California court alleging the site violated their privacy [JURIST report].