Facebook and privacy – The U.S. giant again on trial for its data collection policies

How far may the tracking of users’ personal data of the social network go without incurring any violation of their privacy?

In the last few years, the issue has been widely debated in the European and American Courts, with different and sometimes conflicting results.

In February 2017, the district judge of San Jose, California, rendered his verdict after a long legal battle accusing Facebook Inc. of violating the federal privacy law for the access mode and data processing of users even if they were not registered or logged in the website, thanks to plugins and cookies installed on third websites.

The Californian judge dismissed all the charges against the renowned social network by saying that any violation and any harm for the users were proved, since the possibility for them to prevent the access to their own data by using a private browse mode.

Moreover, according to the district judge the automatic transmission of information from the browser to both parties – Facebook and the third website – do not constitute an unlawful wiretapping made by the social network.

If in the U.S. the debate seems to have ended in favor of the American company, on the European side the battle continues to rage on.

In 2016 the French authorities had already started an investigation against Facebook Inc., considering its method of data collecting concerning the browsing sessions of non-users from third websites not applying to the French privacy regulation, since they are made without the consent of the user.

The Court of Appeal of Brussels, instead, called upon to rule the same accusations, got round the problem announcing its lack of international jurisdiction concerning Facebook Ireland.

In the meanwhile, Facebook recently ended up as targets of the German Antitrust which opened an investigation against the social network charged of taking advantage of its popularity to impose users to accept its unclear conditions.

According to the German authority, there is a link between the infringement of the privacy policy made by the indiscriminate tracking of browsing data of the users and the dominant position on the market taken by the American company which in this way also appears as an illicit practice pursuant to competition law.

The result of the new investigation concerning the American giant of social networks is now expected even if in Europe the matter is far from being closed considering the approaching of 2018 for the implementation of the binding rule on privacy included in the European Regulation on data processing 679/2016.