Thu, Dec 18, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Dutch privacy agency probes Facebook

PRIVACY:Having warned Google about a privacy policy first introduced in 2012, the Hague-based monitor sought input from the social network about its latest update

AFP, THE HAGUE, Netherlands

A Dutch government-affiliated watchdog said on Tuesday it was investigating changes in Facebook Inc’s privacy policy, the latest skirmish in a wider fight over the commercial use of online personal data.

The move came a day after The Hague-based Data Protection Agency (DPA) told Google Inc that it was breaching data protection laws by using personal details for targeted advertising.

Google faces a 15 million euro (US$18.7 million) fine if it does not fix the alleged breaches by the end of February, the agency said.

“The DPA has decided to investigate Facebook’s newly announced privacy policy,” it said in Tuesday’s statement.

“The DPA wants to know what the consequences will be for Facebook users in the Netherlands,” it added.

Facebook last month announced worldwide changes to its privacy policy, which include the right to share personal details and pictures from Facebook profiles for commercial purposes, the agency said.

The watchdog had asked Facebook in a letter to hold off on the changes, set to come in on Jan. 1, until the results of its probe were known.

The DPA added that because Facebook has a “company presence” in the Netherlands and was using Dutch citizens’ details “it had the authority to act as a supervisor.”

Facebook said it was “surprised and disappointed to learn about the DPA’s inquiry,” in a reaction e-mailed to reporters.

It denied that it planned to use pictures posted on Facebook for commercial purposes, but said it could use profile pictures to appear alongside advertisements that had for instance been “liked” by users.

“This is no different from how Facebook has worked for a long time,” one official said.

The social network said that because its headquarters are in Dublin, it falls under Irish data protection laws and would not delay the changes.

“As a company with international headquarters in Dublin, we routinely review product and policy updates ... with our regulator, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner,” Facebook said.

“We are confident the updates comply with the relevant laws,” it said.

The DPA on Monday gave Google two months to fix changes to a privacy policy it introduced in 2012.

It said the Dutch recommendation followed similar inquiries by other privacy regulators in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

For example, Google allegedly breached Dutch laws by matching personal details to personalized advertisements without “properly informing users or first asking their permission,” the DPA said.

Google said it was “disappointed with the Dutch data protection authority’s order, especially as we have already made a number of changes to our privacy policy in response to their concerns.

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