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Facebook 'tramples' on privacy law by illegally tracking internet users without consent


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(NaturalNews) A privacy watchdog organization from Belgium has accused Facebook of "trampling" on European privacy laws because the social media giant tracks users online without their consent.

The Privacy Protection Commission (PPC), which is currently working with French, Spanish, German, and Dutch counterparts, has also accused Facebook officials of dodging questions from national regulators.

As reported by Reuters, the PPC launched its allegations after attempting to obtain more information regarding the social media corporation's overall practices. The organization is urging web surfers to install privacy software on their computers in order to shield themselves from Facebook's tracking systems, even if they don't have an account with the California-based media company.

Reuters further reported:

The show of strength from the Belgian regulator, which does not have the power to levy fines, highlights a growing willingness across the 28-member bloc to demand that big U.S. tech companies abide by European laws.

Combatting an environment of privacy violations

"Facebook tramples on European and Belgian privacy laws", the PPC said after it published a report examining changes that Facebook made to its privacy policies in January.

In a statement, the commission said the social media company would not recognize Belgian and other European Union jurisdictions, insisting that they were only subject to the law in Ireland, where their European headquarters are situated.

"Facebook has shown itself particularly miserly in giving precise answers," the watchdog said, further charging that the results of the study by a group of researchers were "disconcerting."

Reuters reported that a spokeswoman from Facebook questioned the Belgian watchdog's assertion of EU authority but nevertheless said the company's lawyers would look over the commission's study with the Irish data protection commission.

"We work hard to make sure people have control over what they share and with whom," the spokeswoman, who was not identified by name, said.

"Facebook is already regulated in Europe and complies with European data protection law, so the applicability of the CBPL's efforts is unclear," she added.

Some countries in the EU have accused Ireland of being lax with multinational firms it is attempting to attract, particularly in terms of data protection and corporate taxation. Ireland's corporate tax rate is a low 12.5 percent.

The commission said it would publish a second report on Facebook later this year. The sanctions that are available to privacy watchdogs might be negligible to bigger firms, but a new EU data protection measure expected to be put in place this year would permit the levying of fines of up to 5 percent of annual sales.

There are alternatives to ensure privacy

The panel said Facebook officials were reluctant to explain in detail how the company collects and uses data. The commission mentioned Facebook's "Like" button, which it said even affected users who did not have a Facebook account.

As further noted by Reuters, privacy in Europe is becoming much more important than in the U.S.:

A number of firms are under fire in Europe over the data they collect. Facebook places tracking "cookies" when anyone visits a Facebook page, meaning it can track the online activities of a huge number of non-customers, but has said this is a bug that it is working to fix.

In the past, EU regulators have forced Google to change its privacy policies as well.

Fortunately, there are already some great privacy alternatives, with several more on the horizon.

Although it is still in development, Good Gopher is the world's first privacy-protecting search engine that bans corporate propaganda and government disinfo.

Meanwhile, Unseen.is is an email platform that specializes in privacy protection.

Sources:

http://www.reuters.com

http://www.telegraph.co.uk

http://www.goodgopher.com

http://www.unseen.is
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