Social media giant, Facebook, was last week ordered by the Brussels Court of First Instance to delete the data that it holds on Belgian users. If it does not, then it can expect to face a staggering total of 100 million Euros in fines. According to Belgian courts, Facebook’s process of tracking users browsing habits through third-party websites is a breach of privacy law, adding that it may not be fully disclosing the extent of its tracking of Belgian citizens’ digital lives: “Facebook informs us insufficiently about gathering information about us.”
Facebook’s Policies Under Fire
Facebook uses a number of methods to monitor the browsing behaviour of its users, but Belgian courts claim that even if a user is not actually on the social media website itself, they can still be tracked through cookies and third-party software.
This practice of collecting data has come under fire in other EU nations recently, with German courts deeming its policies of user-focused advertising and data collection to be illegal. In this instance, a German consumer watchdog found that the site’s terms of service were in breach of consumer law.
Facebook to Comply with Ruling
A Belgian privacy watchdog welcomed the decision, claiming it a victory for privacy rights, and in a statement said: “Facebook has just launched a large campaign where they stress the importance of privacy…we hope they will now make this a reality.”
Facebook’s Vice President of Public Policy for Europe, Middle East Africa, Richard Allan, released a statement confirming that the social media giant will comply with the ruling, but asserted that their practices were in line with industry regulations.”We’ll comply with this new law, just as we’ve complied with existing data protection law in Europe.”
Additionally, Facebook emphasised that users are entitled to opt out of data collection on its websites and applications. Their data use policy – which can be found here – states “We work with third party companies who help us provide and improve our Services or who use advertising or related products”
This ruling comes at a difficult time for the social media company while it is embroiled in an election ad fraud scandal that has recently seen a number of Russian citizens and firms indicted by special counsellor Robert Mueller.