Belgian Privacy Watchdog Slams Facebook, Promotes Privacy Measures

facebook-privacyThe Belgian Privacy Commission, a watchdog group that has long clashed with Facebook over the site’s data collection policies in Europe, released a scathing critique of the site last week that it accused it of mistreating its users.

The Belgian organization said that Facebook “refuses to comply” with Belgian privacy laws and the laws of several other European countries, and instead only obeys Irish data privacy rules, the country where Facebook makes its European headquarters. The watchdog group also requested a study detailing how Facebook dealt with its users’ information, and they said that the resulting information was “disconcerting.” The group focused particularly hard on the social plug-in tool that allows Facebook to track users both on the site and across the web.

As a result of the study’s findings, the commission recommended that any webmaster who uses a Facebook social plug-in should also use a tool to obtain the consent of website visitors. They also recommended that individuals who don’t want to be tracked by Facebook should turn on the “Incognito” function in their browsers or use add-ons that block tracking.

While that doesn’t seem like a particularly strong measure to take, the commission’s rhetoric makes it clear that they’re willing to dig in and fight the social media giant.

“The way in which [Facebook] members’ and all Internet users’ privacy is denied calls for measures,” said Willem Debeuckelaere, the president of the Privacy Commission. “With this recommendation we have taken a first step towards Facebook and all Internet stakeholders who use Facebook, in order to ensure they start working in a privacy-friendly way. It’s bend or break.”