Watchdog tells Dutch govt: 'Do not use Facebook if there is uncertainty about privacy'

Meta insists it's just misunderstood and it's safe to talk to citizens over FB

The Dutch Data Protection Authority (AP) has warned that government organizations should not use Facebook to communicate with the country's citizens unless they can guarantee the privacy of data.

If a platform threatens to black out your online account as soon as you do not agree to be followed online, that is not a free choice...

The advice follows the Dutch cabinet's decision to postpone a proposed ban on the government's use of the platform.

The Dutch Ministry of the Interior asked the AP for advice on the use of Facebook by the government of the Netherlands, after concluding that it wasn't really sure what Facebook did with the personal data of Dutch citizens who visited Dutch government pages.

The advice? Don't use Facebook if there are any doubts about privacy.

Facebook pages migth be seen as a useful way for government departments to reach citizens. However, the platform has come under increasing fire over how users' data is handled. Aleid Wolfsen, AP chairman, said: "Because people rely on the government for many things, they will quickly be inclined to use a platform like Facebook to communicate with the government.

"But government organizations should not use such platforms as a communication channel if they conclude that they cannot be sure what is happening with people's data. It must be crystal clear what happens to your data. That is the norm."

A spokesperson for Meta told The Register: "We fundamentally disagree with the assessment that underpins this advice, which is wrong on the facts and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding as to how our products work.

"We review all Meta products to ensure they comply with laws in the regions in which we offer our services, and will continue to engage with the Government to ensure they can use social media to communicate with people."

Wolfsen also had strong words for Meta's subscription model, which aims to get users to pay to avoid having their personal data used for targeted advertising: "If a platform threatens to black out your online account as soon as you do not agree to be followed online, that is not a free choice.

"Tech companies cannot force you to agree to tracking your behavior on the internet. For example, to sell your data to advertising companies. People sometimes depend on information on certain online platforms.

"Especially when it comes to government information, people have the right to access this information. Without having to pay for it and without having to sacrifice their privacy." ®

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