Facebook tramples on European privacy laws by tracking people online without their consent and dodges questions from national regulators, Belgium's privacy watchdog said on Friday. Belgium's Privacy Protection Commission (CPVP/CBPL), which is working with German, Dutch, French and Spanish counterparts, launched the blistering attack after trying to find out more about the U.S. tech giant's practices.
It urged Internet users to install privacy software to shield themselves from Facebook's tracking systems, whether they have an account with the social network or not. The show of strength from the Belgian regulator, which does not have the power to levy fines, highlights a growing willingness across the 28-member bloc to ensure big U.S. tech companies abide by European laws.
"Facebook tramples on European and Belgian privacy laws", the Commission said in a statement on Friday after analysing changes the company made to its privacy policies in January. It said Facebook had refused to recognise Belgian and other European Union national jurisdictions, with the company insisting it was subject only to the law in Ireland, the site of its European headquarters.
A Facebook spokeswoman questioned the Belgians' authority but said it would review the study's recommendations with the Irish data protection commissioner. "Facebook is already regulated in Europe and complies with European data protection law, so the applicability of the CBPL's efforts are unclear," she said. Ireland has come under criticism from EU states for policies some say are soft on the multinational companies Dublin wants to attract. The Commission said Facebook would not explain in detail how it uses data it collects and highlighted problems with plug-ins such as Facebook's "like" button, which it said affects many who do not have an account with the social network.
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