Facebook Privacy Blasted by German Data Protection Official

A German data protection official is taking Facebook to task, accusing the social networking site of violating the country's strict privacy laws.

A German data protection official has started legal proceedings against Facebook due to privacy concerns.

Johannes Caspar, head of the Hamburg office for data protection, accused the social networking site of illegally accessing and saving personal data of non-users, according to the Associated Press. Caspar said his office has begun taking legal steps that could end in Facebook being fined thousands of euros for saving information belonging to people who haven't granted the site access to their data.

"We consider the saving of data from third parties, in this context, to be against data privacy laws," Caspar said in a statement.

Andrew Noyes, manager of public policy communications at Facebook, confirmed the company had received a letter from Caspar.

"We are currently reviewing it and will readily respond to it within the given timeframe," he said in an e-mail. "Millions of Germans come to Facebook each day to find their friends, share information with them and connect to the world around them."

At issue seems to be e-mail addresses in users' address books on the site. Facebook's privacy settings permit users to prohibit access to the contacts listed in their e-mail. However, Caspar contends the previously saved contacts have not been erased and are being used for marketing.

"It is a system that is designed around making it possible for Facebook to expand, for its own benefit," Caspar told the Associated Press.

According to reports, Facebook has until Aug. 11 to respond formally to the complaint.