Privacy Law

Facebook ban for teachers in Baden-Württemberg

Baden-Württemberg’s Ministry of Education and Culture has stated that the use of social networks such as Facebook by teachers to communicate with students is not permitted. Teachers are also forbidden from communicating for professional purposes with other teachers via social networks.

Facebook ban for teachers in Baden-Württemberg © kbuntu - Fotolia

Facebook ban for teachers in Baden-Württemberg © kbuntu – Fotolia

Data protection

Many teachers in Baden-Württemberg had become unsure about the rules concerning the use of social networks for professional purposes.

The state’s Ministry of Education and Culture has therefore clarified that the most commonly used social networks do not conform to the standards laid down in the state’s data protection legislation and should not be used.

The ministry noted that many social networks are operated by foreign companies which store data in servers located abroad, where data protection law is less stringent than the state’s equivalent legislation.

As schools are public institutions they are obliged to abide by the state’s data protection standards, the ministry asserts. Consequently, it is forbidden to send any professional communications, such as arranging meeting times or setting up study groups via social networks like Facebook.

The ministry points out that such communications can be sent via encrypted e-mails, by post or on the learning platform Moodle.

Legally controversial Facebook fan pages are not included in the prohibition. However, such fan pages may not contain any photographs or personal data of students. The ministry also concedes that social networks may be used in lessons to explain how they function.

Facebook ban not supported

While the ministry asserts that it produced the guidance following requests from teaching staff, some teachers have criticised the Facebook ban.

They claim they enjoy communicating via such user-friendly channels and that pupils are most readily contactable via social networks.

According to some teachers, many students now write messages on social networks as opposed to checking e-mails. Many teachers therefore believe that the ban is unrealistic and does not ensure that students’ needs are met.

It remains to be seen whether schools will strictly enforce the Facebook ban. Until now the ministry has not taken any action against schools which do not abide by the rules.

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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