A mural decorates one of the many open space work areas at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, May 15, 201
A mural decorates one of the many open space work areas at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, May 15, 201

Belgium taking Facebook to court for tracking users around the internet

A report by the country’s Privacy Commission earlier this year said that Facebook is ‘trampling’ on privacy laws and that citizens should take action against it

Andrew Griffin
Monday 15 June 2015 21:25

Belgium’s Privacy Commission is to take Facebook to court over what it says is illegal tracking of the social network’s users.

The case follows a report earlier where the commission said that Facebook was trampling on privacy laws. The commission said at the time that it couldn’t fine Facebook, but threatened that it would pursue legal action if the site didn’t respond adequately to its report — and it has now begun those proceedings.

The commission now hopes that a judge will force Facebook to comply with its recommendations. The case will be heard in a Belgian court on Thursday.

The Belgian watchdogs concerns are especially related to “the way the social network secretly tracks members but also non-members and processes data is flagrant”, Willem Debeuckelaere, chairman of the Belgian Privacy Commission, told De Morgen.

“Even people who specifically indicate that they don’t want to be followed are still followed,” he said. He said that Facebook stored information on what sites people visit without them knowing.

Facebook called the proceedings “theatrical” and said that they were unexpected.

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

“Although we are confident that there is no merit to the CBPL’s case, we remain happy to work with them in an effort to resolve their concerns, through a dialogue with us at Facebook Ireland and with our regulator, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.”

Facebook has previously said that it doesn’t consider that it should be regulated by individual European countries, instead being looked over by the information commission in Ireland and be asked to comply with European data protection law.

"Facebook is already regulated in Europe and complies with European data protection law, so the applicability of the CBPL's efforts are unclear,” a Facebook spokesperson said in response to previous criticism from the Belgian watchdog. “But we will of course review the recommendations when we receive them with our European regulator, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner."

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