Belgium Tells Facebook to Stop Storing Personal Data From Non-Users

A 'like' logo from the Facebook Inc.

A 'like' logo from the Facebook Inc.

Photographer: Duncan Chard/Bloomberg
  • Company faces 250,000-euro a day fine for non-compliance
  • Facebook says it will appeal Belgian ruling to higher court

Facebook Inc. lost a fight with Belgium’s privacy watchdog after a court ordered it to stop storing personal data from people who don’t have an account with the social network.

Facebook faces a fine of 250,000 euros ($269,000) a day if it doesn’t comply with the ruling, the court said in an e-mailed statement Monday.

Belgium’s privacy watchdog had sued Menlo Park, California-based Facebook for failing to respond to its demands to bring its privacy policy in line with local laws. Facebook’s “disrespectful” treatment of users’ personal data, without their knowledge, “needs tackling,” Willem Debeuckelaere, president of the Belgian commission, said in May.

“If a surfer doesn’t have an own Facebook account, Facebook from now on will have to explicitly solicit consent and provide the needed explanations,” the Brussels court of first instance said.

The European Union’s 28 privacy watchdogs are coordinating national probes into possible violations of EU law by Facebook’s revamped policy for handling personal photos and data. Dutch regulators were the first to step in after Facebook alerted its users a year ago of changes that became effective in January.

Facebook will appeal the court ruling, spokeswoman Sally Aldous said in a statement. The company is “working to minimize any disruption to people’s access to Facebook in Belgium,” she said.

Facebook had argued it is only subject to privacy laws in Ireland, where the U.S. company has its European headquarters -- an argument it has used in other countries, including in Germany.

The Belgian regulator, which said it has the power to look into possible violations of its citizens’ privacy rights, earlier this year cited concerns over how Facebook can track customer behavior from their use of so-called social plugins such as the “like” button, the “share” button, comments and other tools on the Facebook page.

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