Belgian privacy watchdog takes Facebook to court over "flagrant and massive" privacy law violations

Belgium's privacy commission is suing Facebook over alleged violations of Belgian and European privacy laws. At issue is how Facebook tracks people through the use of “like” and “share” buttons.
Belgian privacy watchdog takes Facebook to court over

After threats, Belgium's Commission for the Protection of Privacy is effectively taking Facebook to local court to argue that the American social networking giant isn't in compliance with Belgian privacy legislation, newspaper De Morgen reported yesterday (in Dutch).

The matter will be brought before a Brussels judge for the first time this Thursday, in a first for a European privacy watchdog targeting Facebook.

Sources of VRT, the national public-service broadcaster for the Flemish Region, say that the Belgian Privacy Commission is moving this quickly because of alleged "flagrant and massive violation" of the nation's (and European) privacy rules.

An earlier investigation by the watchdog showed that Facebook secretly processes the data of its members as well as all Internet users who come into contact with the network's services and products without requesting permission.

At issue is how Facebook tracks people on external websites through the use of “like” and “share” buttons, gleaning data that could be used for targeted advertising and other purposes.

The Commission has on multiple occasions indicated that communication with Facebook on this topic was difficult and at times even non-existent, and now it also argues that the social networking juggernaut has failed to provide an adequate response to its specific objections.

As a result, the Commission last week subpoenaed Facebook Belgium, Ireland and US in a move that could trigger similar lawsuits from other European privacy commissions. It will also likely result in an even further breakdown of communications: a Facebook official has informed VRT that "talks are no longer meaningful" given the legal action.

Since January 2015, the Belgian privacy watchdog says it has worked together with similar commissions of the Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain, and held "regular consultations with other European sister organisations". Lawsuits to be continued, no doubt.

Featured image credit: Evan Lome / Shutterstock

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