UPDATED 18:20 EDT / MAY 26 2015


Facebook’s EU woes continue as regulators clamp down

Facebook Inc has become a veteran of the battles fought over online privacy, data security and net neutrality, and it does not look like the social network will be free from scrutiny any time soon.

For several months, the social network has been at the center of a series of privacy investigations by various privacy watchdog groups throughout the European Union, and Facebook was recently accused by the Belgian Privacy Protection Commission of “trampling” on E.U. laws and being uncooperative in their probes.

Now, similar watchdog groups have accused Facebook and a few other large tech firms of unfairly favoring their own services over those of their competitors.

As with its previous encounters with watchdog groups and regulators, Facebook’s response to all regulatory concerns in Europe are the same. According to the social media company, because its European offices are located in Ireland, Facebook is only subject to the specific regulations of that country.

Richard Allan, who heads Facebook’s policy team in Europe, recently reiterated that belief. “The primary regulation should come from where a company’s headquarters is located,” Allen said. “It doesn’t make sense that 28 regulators should make different interpretations of the same law.”

Peter Schaar, formerly a federal data protection commissioner in Germany, points out that Facebook could not have chosen a more lax country to set up shop. “Of course Facebook would go to a country with the lowest levels of data protection,”  Schaar said. “It’s natural they would choose Ireland.”

European law student Max Schrems, dissatisfied with the Irish regulator’s treatment of privacy concerns related to Facebook, has been a vocal critic of the company and has even filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook after collecting 75,000 signatures on a petition.

“This is about limiting what Facebook can do with Europeans’ data,” Schrems told The New York Times. “How much should they be allowed to dig into the souls of their users? That’s what we’re fighting for.”

Five European regulators – including France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium – are expected to meet later this month to discuss the fate of Facebook’s current privacy rules, and the social network could potentially face fines or new regulations that could force the company to make changes to its systems and policies.

photo credit: Mark Zuckerberg via photopin (license)

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