Facebook Faces Off With Belgian Privacy Commission Over Privacy Accusations

A new study calls Facebook's privacy and data collection policies into legal question but the social giant says the authors of the research never reached out to them.

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By Nina Zipkin

A new study was commissioned by the Belgian Privacy Commission to take a deep dive into Facebook's privacy and data collection practices as they pertained to the laws of the EU. While the researchers weren't too thrilled with what they found, Facebook wasn't happy either.

The researchers hold that Facebook is collecting data from users who have logged out of their accounts or opted out of tracking altogether, monitoring them through the social buttons (social plug-ins) used to share third-party content, and placing cookies on users and non-users who visit websites that are owned by the facebook.com domain.

Related: Get Ready for Big Changes to Facebook Messenger and Video

Additionally, the researchers recommend that the social giant revise their policies to be more transparent about how it incorporates user-generated content for things like Social Ads and Sponsored Stories, as well as restricting user profile information "to self-selected contacts to self-selected contacts (i.e.., "Friends') by default. Users should be asked for permission before access is extended to any other entity."

Facebook defended its actions, telling Entrepreneur that it goes above and beyond to comply with opt-out requests.

Related: Analyst: Facebook Native Video Will Thwart YouTube's Throne in a Matter of Months

"Virtually all websites, including Facebook, legally use cookies to offer their services. Cookies have been an industry standard for more than 15 years. If people want to opt out of seeing advertising based on the websites they visit and apps they use, they opt out through the EDAA, whose principles and opt out we and more than 100 other companies comply with," a Facebook spokesperson said. "Facebook takes this commitment one step further: when you use the EDAA opt out, we opt you out on all devices you use and you won't see ads based on the websites and apps you use."

Related: Facebook's Foray Into Payments: Should PayPal be Worried?

The spokesperson went on to say, "We're disappointed that the authors of this opinion and the Belgian DPA, who we understand commissioned it, have declined to meet with us or clarify the inaccurate information about this and other topics. We remain willing to engage with them and hope they will be prepared to correct their work in due course."

The research was conducted by a group of academics hailing from the department of Computer Security and Industrial Cryptography Interdisciplinary Centre for Law and ICT/Centre for Intellectual Property Rights of KU Leuven, the department of Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Related: Facebook Announces New Policies Regarding Names, Nudity and Controversial Content

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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