Belgium takes Facebook to court over privacy violations

Social network faces legal action from Belgium national privacy watchdog for tracking members and non-members, illegal under Belgian and EU law

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The Belgian Privacy Commission (CPL) is taking Facebook to court over allegations that the social network firm breached European privacy law by tracking users and non-users.

“Facebook's behavior is unacceptable,” Willem Debeuckelaere, president of the CPL told Belgian newspaper De Morgen.

“It’s not because we want start a lawsuit over this, but we cannot continue to negotiate through other means.”

This is the first time an EU country has sued US-based Facebook for not complying with the law. According to a report of recommendations published in March Facebook tracks user behavior by default until they opt-out.

“This means that Facebook’s current opt-out approach does not satisfy the requirements for legally valid consent,” the report said, since an opt-out mechanism “is not an adequate mechanism to obtain average users informed consent.”

The report also found that the social media giant was tracking users not logged into Facebook, along with non-users using the “Like” and “Share” buttons.

At the time of the report, Facebook argued that it is regulated by the Irish data protection commissioner, which operates in the European Union, that it doesn’t accept any other national regulations.

“They answered that they do not accept Belgian law or the authority of the Belgian privacy commission, and that it is all a misunderstanding,” said Debeuckelaere.

A Facebook spokesman told in an email that “there is no merit” in the CPL’s case.

“We were surprised and disappointed that, after the [CPL] had already agreed to meet with us on the 19 June to discuss their recommendations, they took the theatrical action of bringing Facebook Belgium to court on the day beforehand,” a Facebook spokesman said.

A court in Brussels will hear the case on June 18.

The European Commission recently advised EU Citizens to close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep their communications private from US intelligence agencies.

TRTWorld and agencies