Belgian Privacy Commission Takes Facebook to Court

One month after it released a report strongly criticizing Facebook's handling of user data, the Belgium Commission for the Protection of Privacy (CBPL) has filed a complaint against the social networking giant in civil court. Filed with the Civil Court of First Instance in Brussels, the complaint is scheduled for an initial hearing Thursday.

The commission launched an investigation into Facebook's privacy policies in response to public concerns following an update to the company's terms of use last November. Its conclusions, published in May, accused Facebook of trampling on both Belgian and European privacy laws. The commission's complaint was filed against Facebook's Belgian, Irish and U.S. corporate entities.

Among the recommendations made in the commission's report was a request for "full transparency" by Facebook about the company's use of cookies and social plug-ins to track users' activities. It also recommended that Facebook put in place "unambiguous and specific" opt-in policies for any data collected and processed through such cookies and plug-ins.

'Behavior Cannot Be Tolerated'

Calling Facebook's data tracking and processing practices a "flagrant" violation of privacy laws, Commission President Willem Debeuckelaere said, "The behavior of Facebook cannot be tolerated," according to the Dutch-language news publication DeMorgen.

Debeuckelaere told DeMorgen that following the publication of its report on Facebook last month, "We asked them what they would do with our recommendations. They replied that they do not accept the Belgian law and the authority of the Belgian Privacy Commission, and that it all rests on a misunderstanding. For us that was the signal to go to court.

Class-Action European Suit Also Pending

When Facebook updated its privacy policies last fall, it expanded its ad preferences tool to enable users to opt out of seeing certain types of advertising across all devices. However, the change did not affect the data that Facebook continues to gather...

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