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Facebook, under siege, slams European privacy regulators

Loek Essers | April 30, 2015
Facebook has warned that overlapping national probes into its privacy policy could severely endanger the European Union's economy if such a fragmented strategy is continued and applied to other businesses.

The national privacy authorities disagree with Facebook and say they do have authority over the company's privacy practices. "It is quite simple, we have authority because Facebook processes data from Belgians," said a spokeswoman for the Belgian Privacy Commission.

Belgian authorities are meeting with Facebook on Wednesday to talk about a report that they commissioned, which found that Facebook violates EU law by tracking visitors. Facebook says the report contains factual inaccuracies. A discussion about jurisdiction is also planned, the spokeswoman for Belgian DPA said.

The German DPA in Hamburg did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Jacob Kohnstamm, the chairman of the Dutch DPA, told Dutch newspaper Trouw on Wednesday that Silicon Valley companies are less impressed by a legal letter from Dutch data protection authorities than Dutch organizations might be. It is therefore important that the EU's planned new privacy laws should be approved soon to give privacy authorities the opportunity to stand together against big U.S. companies, he said.

However, there is debate among EU lawmakers about how to approach data privacy enforcement. The European Commission approved a plan for a "one-stop-shop" mechanism that would make it easier for businesses and citizens to deal with privacy-related complaints. However, that proposal was later weakened by the Council of the EU, which added unnecessary bureaucratic steps, thus weakening the plan, privacy groups have warned.

EU institutions hope to come up with a definitive proposal for data protection reform by the end of the year.

 

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