Facebook Gets Slap on the Wrist from 2 European Privacy Regulators


A booth at a Facebook conference in San Jose, Calif., last month. On Tuesday, Dutch and French authorities said that the way the company employed information it collected on users worldwide broke their data protection rules.

Noah Berger/Associated Press

Facebook suffered a setback on Tuesday over how it uses the reams of information it collects about users worldwide, after two European privacy watchdogs said that the social network’s practices broke their countries’ data protection rules.

The announcement by Dutch and French authorities was part of a growing pushback across the European Union about how Facebook collects data on the bloc’s roughly 500 million residents. Some European governments, notably in Germany, are considering hefty fines against the company and other social media giants if they fail to crack down on hate speech and misinformation on their networks.

As part of their separate announcements on Tuesday, the Dutch and French officials said that Facebook had not provided people in their countries with sufficient control over how their details are used. They said that the social network had collected digital information on Facebook users as well as nonusers on third-party websites without their knowledge.

The French regulator, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, or CNIL, said that it had fined Facebook 150,000 euros, or about $164,000, for failing to meet France’s data protection rules. The CNIL chairwoman, Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, also leads a Pan-European group of privacy officials. The fine represents a relatively small amount for Facebook, which generates tens of billions of dollars a year in online advertising. The Dutch authority, which could still reach a settlement with Facebook, did not impose a financial penalty.

How Europe Protects Your Online Data Differently Than the U.S.

All the talk about data privacy can get caught up in political wrangling. But the different approaches have practical consequences for people, too.

“Facebook proceeded to a massive compilation of personal data of internet users in order to display targeted advertising,” the French watchdog said in an emailed statement on Tuesday. “It has also been noticed that Facebook collected data on browsing activity of internet users on third-party websites without their knowledge.”

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