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Facebook Face Court Action from Belgian Privacy Watchdog

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As Facebook continues to grow, it gathers more information about its user base. This can be beneficial for site improvements, it can enhance the user experience and it can provide valuable survey data, but just how deep does the rabbit hole really go? Well according the Belgian privacy watchdog, it goes too deep, so deep in fact that they're taking Zuckerberg and his ilk to court over it.

Facebook stands accused of tracking the web activity of its users and even monitoring those without an account. Both of those things are in breach of Europe's web privacy laws. The investigation, carried out by the Independent Privacy Commission (with input from several other European countries), is just one part of a barrage of European legal assaults against larger US tech companies. Google and Amazon have both been in the firing line, albeit for very different reasons.

The court will convene on June 18th, with the primary focus of the hearing being Facebook's alleged tracking of non-users, mostly via cookies. The Commission are angling after an outright ban on this kind of monitoring. In response, Facebook have claimed that this is being blown out of all proportion and that cookies are a standard practice all over the net with a clear opt-out. They also argue that any regulatory laws which govern their online activity in the EU should be Irish, since that's where their European headquarters are. The Irish government have been criticised by the rest of the EU in the past for being a soft touch on this kind of thing.

If the case does go through and Facebook end up losing, it could open up a path to similar lawsuits all across the EU and likely create far stricter limitations on what the colossal social media company can and cannot do across the continent. There are facing similar accusations of privacy breach even now in Austria, who are seeking damages settlements for all the plaintiffs (and there are a lot).

Even generally speaking, Facebook have something of a rocky relationship with the EU, who earlier this year clearly and specifically advised its citizens to promptly delete their Facebook accounts if they didn't want to be monitored by US security services. The larger Facebook grows and the more detailed the user information it takes on, the more issues like this are going to crop up and it begs the question: where is the line between data being useful and it being needlessly intrusive? One way or the other, we'll find out.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Facebook Face Court Action from Belgian Privacy Watchdog Reviewed by Callum Davies on Thursday, June 18, 2015 Rating: 5

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