Report Finds that Facebook’s Privacy Policy Breaches European Law


We frequently post on social media issues, including issues pertaining to Facebook. As we recently reported, an article authored by our editor, Jim Dedman, was recently published in the January 2016 edition of The Inside Scoop, the newsletter of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Corporate Counsel section.

But we’ve got more news on this front.

Facebook is apparently in the news again for legal reasons following “[a] report commissioned by the Belgian privacy commission [that] as found that Facebook is acting in violation of European law, despite updating its privacy policy.” The study at issue was conducted by the Centre of Interdisciplinary Law and ICT at the University of Leuven in Belgium. The report “claimed that Facebook’s privacy policy update in January had only expanded older policy and practices, and found that it still violates European consumer protection law.” Specifically, a number of provisions in the new privacy policy still fail to comply with the Unfair Contract Terms Directive in a number of ways, including but not limited to:

  • Placing too much burden on Facebook users to navigate Facebook’s “complex web of settings in search of potential opt-outs”
  • Providing no mechanism by which users can stop Facebook from collecting location information on users via its smartphone app besides stopping location access on the phone via the mobile operating system
  • Offering no choice regarding the user’s appearance in “sponsored stories” or sharing of data pertaining to location.

Facebook has apparently met with Bart Tommelein, the Belgian privacy minister, to discuss the issues raised in the report, and to convey its position that its new privacy policy does not violate any laws.  Facebook is supposedly being investigated by various other European nations for various privacy infractions as well.

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