After months of wrangling, Belgium’s Privacy Commissioner is pressing ahead with a lawsuit against Facebook for stalking people who aren’t its users.
Belgian authorities have found indisputable evidence that the company is flagrantly tracking both its own users and, more importantly, people who don’t want to be tracked.
The Commission de Protection de la Vie Privée (CPVP) had warned Facebook in March that a lawsuit was possible unless it took substantive steps to address its concerns, while in May it published a report that said “Facebook violates European and Belgian legislation on privacy”.
The CPVP commissioned research by iMinds, the University of Leuven and Vrije University to examine Facebook’s tracking technology in detail. The report found that the tracking conducted by Facebook easily allowed the company to connect peoples’ identities with their medical history, religious preferences, sexuality and political orientation.
The CPVP, in addition to taking Facebook to court over the invasion of privacy, suggests that users get privacy add-ons like Ghostery, Blur or Disconnect in order to protect their information.
According to CPVP chairman Willem Debeuckelaere, Facebook’s high handed response was that it doesn’t accept either the Belgian law or the authority of the privacy commission.
Its similar to Google’s ‘we’re from the internet so laws don’t apply to us’ strategy, which has been shot down across the globe, most recently in Canada.
The company, which makes tons of money off this data stealing, understandably wants to keep negotiating, but Debeuckelaere and the CPVP are tired of Facebook’s disingenuous negotitating tactics. The chairman said he’d rather not launch a lawsuit, but “we can not continue to negotiate through other means”, he said. “We want a judge to impose our recommendations”.
Facebook called the action “theatrical,” and a company spokesperson said backhandedly that it’s “happy to work with them through a dialogue with us at Facebook Ireland and with our regulator, the Irish data protection commissioner”.
In addition to the Belgian lawsuit, Facebook faces legal actions in The Netherlands in addition to a pan-European investigation in which Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany are working together.