In another setback to Facebook in Europe, the French data protection authority has ordered the social networking giant to stop sending user data to the US and comply with the European data protection law.
According to a report in technology website Tech Crunch, Facebook has been given three months to make the changes deemed necessary by the data protection authority CNIL and failing to do so will incur heavy fines.
Specifically, the data protection agency is unhappy that Facebook collects the browsing activity of internet users who do not have a Facebook account. "The company does not inform Internet users that it sets a cookie on their terminal when they visit a Facebook public page (page of a public event or of a friend).
This cookie transmits to Facebook information relating to third-party websites offering Facebook plug-ins (e.g. Like button) that are visited by Internet users," the CNIL notice read. According to the notice, Facebook collects user data concerning sexual orientation, religious and political views "without the explicit consent of account holders".
Nor does it inform users on the sign up form "with regard to their rights and the processing of their personal data". Facebook is also accused of using the now illegal "Safe Harbor" data transfer mechanism - a longstanding trans-Atlantic data transfer agreement that was invalidated by the European Court of Justice last year, the report added.
According to a Facebook spokesperson, "We are confident that we comply with European Data Protection law and look forward to engaging with the CNIL to respond to their concerns." According to CNIL, it has made its notice against Facebook public due to "the seriousness of the violations and the number of individuals concerned by the Facebook service".
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Facebook has more than 30 million users in France. The social networking giant is facing several privacy-related probes in Europe. In November, a Belgian court ordered the company to stop using cookies to track the web activity of its users. As well as investigations by the French and Belgian authorities, Facebook is also being probed by Spanish, Dutch and German (Hamburg) data protection authorities.