Dutch government says it may stop using Facebook over privacy concerns

22.04.2024


The Dutch government announced on Friday that it might have to discontinue its use of Facebook following a cautionary note from the Netherlands’ privacy watchdog regarding the privacy risks associated with the Meta-owned social media platform.

In a statement, the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) advised the Dutch Interior Ministry against relying on Facebook pages for communication with citizens unless there is a clear understanding of how Facebook utilizes the personal data of visitors to government pages.

Previously, the Interior Ministry had sought guidance from the DPA on whether it could use Facebook pages in a manner compliant with regulations.

The government is seeking prompt clarification from Meta, preferably before the summer recess, regarding how they intend to address the concerns raised, stated Alexandra van Huffelen, the Dutch Minister for Digitalization.

“If these concerns are not addressed satisfactorily, we will have no choice but to suspend our activities on Facebook pages, in accordance with the DPA’s advice,” she added.

The chairman of the Dutch DPA, Aleid Wolfsen, emphasized in a statement that visitors to government pages trust that their personal and sensitive information is handled securely.

“This trust is particularly crucial considering that such information may include details about children and young people, who are especially vulnerable online and therefore require heightened protection,” Wolfsen stated, as translated to English via Google Translate.

Responding to the DPA’s advice, a spokesperson for Meta told CNBC, “We fundamentally disagree with the assessment underlying this advice, which is factually incorrect and reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how our products operate.”

“We rigorously assess all Meta products to ensure compliance with relevant laws in the regions where we provide our services and remain committed to collaborating with governments to facilitate their use of social media for communication,” the Meta spokesperson added.

Matthew Holman, a tech, privacy, and AI partner at law firm Cripps, noted that the DPA’s advice underscores the growing distrust between European regulators and Meta. Holman suggested that the Dutch regulator’s concern likely stems from the possibility of user data being shared with government agencies on Meta’s platform, potentially leading to security issues, surveillance, or access by US federal authorities.

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