Facebook Told by France to Stop Collecting Non-User Data

  • Company faces similar order in Belgium over users's data
  • EU privacy regulators are coordinating probes into Facebook

Facebook Inc. was given three months by France’s privacy watchdog to stop storing data on people who don’t have an account with the social network as the company continues to draw objections from regulators throughout Europe.

The operator of the world’s largest social network can track online users across all the sites they visit without obtaining clear consent, France’s data protection regulator, CNIL, said in a statement late Monday.

“The seriousness of the failures” and the company’s more than 30 million Facebook users in France forced it to make the decision public, the regulator said.

The European Union’s 28 privacy watchdogs have been coordinating probes into possible violations of EU law by Facebook’s revamped policy for handling personal photos and data. Regulators from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Hamburg, Germany, have opened separate national investigations.

“Protecting the privacy of the people who use Facebook is at the heart of everything we do,” said Sally Aldous, a spokeswoman for Facebook. “We are confident that we comply with European Data Protection law and look forward to engaging with the CNIL to respond to their concerns.”

The Menlo Park, California-based company lost a fight with Belgium’s privacy watchdog after a court in November ordered it to stop storing personal data from non-users. The country’s regulator also raised concerns about how Facebook can track customer behavior from so-called social plugins including the “like” and “share” buttons, comments, and other tools on the social network.

The European regulators in a joint statement last year urged Facebook to apply the Belgian court ruling from Nov. 9 throughout all of Europe. Facebook is appealing the decision.

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