Dutch watchdog slams brakes on Facebook's new privacy plan

The Netherlands' data regulator has asked Facebook to hold off implementing a revised privacy policy until it can take a look at whether it complies with local law.
Written by Martin Gijzemijter, Contributor

The Dutch data protection authority, College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens (CBP), has announced that it is launching an investigation into Facebook's forthcoming privacy policy.

CBP took the decision following Facebook's announcement last month that it will introduce new privacy terms of service for the social network, set to come into force from next year. The new terms allow Facebook to use details and photos from Facebook profiles for commercial purposes.

CBP confirmed on Tuesday that it has sent Facebook a letter requesting that the company postpone implementing the new privacy policy until it has completed its investigation.

Worldwide policy

CBP's decision to probe Facebook's new privacy rules comes just a day after the Dutch regulator threatened the search giant Google with a fine of up to €15m if it doesn't bring its unified privacy policy into line with Dutch law.

Facebook's new privacy policy will become effective worldwide as of January 1 and CBP wants to know what the consequences are for the privacy of Facebook users in the Netherlands. In particular, the regulator wants to know how the company will obtain individuals' permission for using their personal information.

Facebook does not 'like'

Since Facebook has an office in the Netherlands and processes Dutch citizens' personal information, CPB is authorized to act as regulator. Regardless of its regulatory powers, Facebook is not planning on complying with the request of CPB, the company said in an email to Dutch newspaper NRC.

"We are extremely surprised and disappointed by CBP's investigation. We recently adjusted our terms of service and policy to make them more clear and concise, to display new product features and to clarify how people can control advertising [they see on the site]," Facebook said.

"We are confident that the changes meet the applicable laws. As a company with an international headquarters in Dublin, we frequently consult with our regulator, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, regarding product and policy adjustments; this also applies to this change. The regulator oversees whether or not we meet the European privacy legislation as implemented under Irish law. The new privacy policy will take effect on January 1 2015, which means that users have been granted more than 30 days to decide whether or not they want to keep using Facebook."

ZDNet has asked Facebook for comment and will update the story if any is forthcoming.

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