Belgium will drag Facebook to court if it has to – privacy minister

Report claims social network in breach of privacy laws

Belgium’s privacy tsar says he is ready to hand the Facebook case to prosecutors if consultations with the social network over alleged EU law breaches fail.

This follows a report detailing several instances where Mark Zuckerberg's firm is alleged to have broken EU laws.

Before snapping on the rubber gloves for an in-depth probe, the Belgian Privacy Commission commissioned the report from the University of Leuven (KUL) and the University of Brussels (VUB).

That study, published last week (PDF, 61 pages), concludes that Facebook’s latest privacy policy – updated at the beginning of the year – breaches European privacy laws.

Belgian privacy minister, Bart Tommelein, told local reporters that he is not an enemy of social networks, and he understood that Facebook was willing to comply with Belgian and EU privacy rules, but said Belgium must be prepared to take the lead in tackling violations of the right to privacy. He told paper Het Laaste Niuews: "There will be a solution. If it does not come about through discussions, then [it will go] via the legal route [through the courts]" [translated from Dutch].

The KUL-VUB report claims that Facebook's privacy policy update in January had only expanded older policy and practices, and found that it still violates European consumer protection law as well as being in breach of the Belgian Data Protection Act.

European data protection watchdogs had already warned Facebook its privacy policy could be against EU laws. Of particular concern is Facebook’s collection of information from third-party sites, which includes information gleaned from the “Like” button as well as the possible use of personal data to target advertising.

The bragsite is already under investigation by the Dutch data protection authority, College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens.

A pan-EU probe is already under way, with the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany all working together as part of a so-called Article 29 taskforce.

The Belgian Privacy Commission will now launch its own investigation based on the KUL-VUB report. If Facebook still refuses to change its policy, the commission will refer the case to prosecutors who can drag Zuck and Co into court. However, a commission spokeswoman said they would prefer to resolve the issue before it gets to that stage.

Facebook representatives have already met Tommelein in an effort to avoid punishment. ®

Similar topics

Narrower topics

Other stories you might like

  • North Korea pulled in $400m in cryptocurrency heists last year – report

    Plus: FIFA 22 players lose their identity and Texas gets phony QR codes

    In brief Thieves operating for the North Korean government made off with almost $400m in digicash last year in a concerted attack to steal and launder as much currency as they could.

    A report from blockchain biz Chainalysis found that attackers were going after investment houses and currency exchanges in a bid to purloin funds and send them back to the Glorious Leader's coffers. They then use mixing software to make masses of micropayments to new wallets, before consolidating them all again into a new account and moving the funds.

    Bitcoin used to be a top target but Ether is now the most stolen currency, say the researchers, accounting for 58 per cent of the funds filched. Bitcoin accounted for just 20 per cent, a fall of more than 50 per cent since 2019 - although part of the reason might be that they are now so valuable people are taking more care with them.

    Continue reading
  • Tesla Full Self-Driving videos prompt California's DMV to rethink policy on accidents

    Plus: AI systems can identify different chess players by their moves and more

    In brief California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said it’s “revisiting” its opinion of whether Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving feature needs more oversight after a series of videos demonstrate how the technology can be dangerous.

    “Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space,” have made the DMV think twice about Tesla, according to a letter sent to California’s Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, and first reported by the LA Times.

    Tesla isn’t required to report the number of crashes to California’s DMV unlike other self-driving car companies like Waymo or Cruise because it operates at lower levels of autonomy and requires human supervision. But that may change after videos like drivers having to take over to avoid accidentally swerving into pedestrians crossing the road or failing to detect a truck in the middle of the road continue circulating.

    Continue reading
  • Alien life on Super-Earth can survive longer than us due to long-lasting protection from cosmic rays

    Laser experiments show their magnetic fields shielding their surfaces from radiation last longer

    Life on Super-Earths may have more time to develop and evolve, thanks to their long-lasting magnetic fields protecting them against harmful cosmic rays, according to new research published in Science.

    Space is a hazardous environment. Streams of charged particles traveling at very close to the speed of light, ejected from stars and distant galaxies, bombard planets. The intense radiation can strip atmospheres and cause oceans on planetary surfaces to dry up over time, leaving them arid and incapable of supporting habitable life. Cosmic rays, however, are deflected away from Earth, however, since it’s shielded by its magnetic field.

    Now, a team of researchers led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) believe that Super-Earths - planets that are more massive than Earth but less than Neptune - may have magnetic fields too. Their defensive bubbles, in fact, are estimated to stay intact for longer than the one around Earth, meaning life on their surfaces will have more time to develop and survive.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022