Facebook pictures are helping German police catch suspected criminals and find missing persons, according to the state’s interior minister.

Law enforcement in the German state of Lower-Saxony will soon use social media like their networks of Facebook “friends” in manhunts after the completion of a pilot scheme in the northern city of Hanover in 2011 that ignited harsh criticism from data protection groups.

German police said that the controversial experimental scheme helped police complete six criminal investigations and two missing person cases after facial composites of suspects and stills captured from Closed Circuit Television footage were distributed on the social networking site Facebook.

Police said that two cases had been resolved just hours after the information was uploaded onto Facebook.

"Our successes so far clearly show that the police must not shut themselves off from this medium," state interior minister of Lower-Saxony, Uwe Schuenemann, said in a statement.

"The police department in Lower-Saxony can adapt to new trends," he said. "With a fan page the police is showing itself to be modern and approachable."

Last year the state’s experimental Facebook scheme exploded criticism among data protection groups arguing that the publication of suspects’ pictures on the social network could lead to personal data directed through Facebook could end up on American internet servers that were outside the influence of European Union data protection laws.

Schuenemann said that the new system will be introduced in the near future and will direct Facebook users to a police sever via an internet link.

However, state commissioner for data protection, Joachim Wahlbrink that the police-proposed safeguards are not enough, and that the decision would result in widespread circulation of personal information that can never be entirely deleted.

"Once this data has been saved, those involved will always be pilloried," his spokesman, Michael Knaps, said, according to Reuters.