Facebook in Court over allegations that it broke privacy rules

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Belgium’s privacy watchdog has filed a suit against the US tech giant in the main civil court in Brussels. Last month, the watchdog said that Facebook “flouts European and Belgian law in the area of privacy” and said several recommendations made have been ignored by Facebook. The watchdog says Facebook tracks internet users whether or not they are members of the social network.

Users are tracked using browser cookies which are left on a computer when someone clicks like or share on a website. The Belgian watchdog recommends that operators of internet sites use “a two-click solution” to obtain the explicit consent of visitors before latter say click “like” or “share”. Facebook’s European headquarters are in Dublin and it says it only accepts Irish privacy laws outside of the US.

The Dublin HQ registers all accounts outside the United States and Canada – making up some 80% of Facebook’s 1.35 billion users. The case is due to be heard on Thursday.

A Facebook spokeswoman in Europe, Tina Kulow, was quoted saying the firm was “surprised” and “disappointed” that the watchdog was taking it to court even though there was a meeting planned between the two.

This year Facebook has been accused a number of times over piracy issues. In April some 25,000 users – led by Austrian law graduate Max Schrems – accused Facebook of violating European privacy laws in the way it collects and forwards data. The case was brought against Facebook’s European HQ in Dublin, which handles accounts outside US and Canada. Facebook’s lawyers argued for the case to be dismissed. They presented a list of procedural objections at a court hearing in Vienna on Thursday. Mr Schrems – a campaigner for data protection – said he brought the claim to stop what he calls mass surveillance by the social networking site.

The legal action claimed privacy laws were breached in the way Facebook monitors users when they activate the site’s “like” buttons. It also alleges Facebook co-operated with Prism, a suvillance launched in 2007 by the US National Security Agency. The case involved more than 900 UK-based users of Facebook – including a compensation claim of about €500 ($539; £362) per person. Reports BBC.

In March the former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor alleged that the agency operated a programme dubbed “Prism”, obliging major technology companies such as Google and Facebook to feed in data they collect on their users – directly or indirectly. When Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems asked the data-protection commissioner to investigate how Facebook and its Irish subsidiary treat data originating in the EU, the Portarlington-based body said this was a political matter, beyond its remit reports The Irish Times.

In Belgium Facebook has been taken to court by a piracy watchdog claiming Facebook tracks Internet users whether or not they are members of the social network reports Sky News.

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Erick Vateta
Tech Editor at Kachwanya.com
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Erick Vateta is a lawyer by training, poet, script and creative writer by talent, a model, and tech enthusiast. He covers International tech trends, data security and cyber attacks.
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