Data Privacy Stichting wins landmark privacy case against Facebook
In its decision of 15 March 2023 the District Court of Amsterdam sided with the Data Privacy Stichting (the “Foundation”). The Foundation – working closely with the Consumentenbond in this action – requested declaratory relief in relation to the large-scale violation by Facebook (Meta) of the privacy and consumer rights of Dutch Facebook users in the period 2010-2020. This relief was granted.
The court determined that Facebook acted unlawfully because it violated the privacy of its users in the Netherlands for years. It also held that its conduct constituted an unfair trade practice in the meaning of Dutch consumer law. Facebook did not adequately inform consumers about the purpose and use of their (sensitive) personal data. Moreover, it lacked permission to use this personal data for advertising purposes and misled its users in the Netherlands by withholding essential information.
This is a landmark decision in the privacy arena and it affects the interests of approximately 10 million Dutch Facebook users. The court’s ruling is very clear on Facebook’s unlawful practices and at the same time it forces other Big Tech companies to fundamentally reconsider their privacy policies and business models. In light of the court’s considerations on how to deal with the GDPR and other privacy laws generally, this ruling is also important for pending class actions against Big Tech companies.
The Foundation and Dutch consumers’ association, the Consumentenbond, will not stop until the privacy and consumer rights of Dutch Facebook users are adequately protected. There is every reason to do so, where Facebook is committing many more violations. In cooperation with the Consumentenbond, the Foundation therefore initiates a second action against Facebook. In this action, the Foundation holds Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, responsible for the illegal transfer of personal data outside of Europe. That is not permitted unless adequate protection is in place that data is well protected from government surveillance. That protection is currently missing.
Consumers can (still) participate in the first action on the unlawful processing and use of their data if they were Facebook users at any point between April 1, 2010 and January 1, 2020 and lived in the Netherlands at the time. Consumers can also participate in the second action on transfers of data outside of Europe, if they are or have been Facebook and/or Instagram user at any time from May 25, 2018 until now and lived in the Netherlands at the time.
To sign up for one or both actions against Facebook (Meta) and/or for more information about both actions, please visit the website of the Consumentenbond: www.consumentenbond.nl/acties/facebook. The press release from the Consumentenbond dated March 15, 2023 is published in the Dutch language and can be found via the following link: www.consumentenbond.nl/nieuws/2023/consumentenbond-en-dps-winnen-baanbrekende-privacyzaak-tegen-facebook-en-starten-nieuwe-zaak.
The decision of the court is available here (in Dutch): https://uitspraken.rechtspraak.nl/#!/details?id=ECLI:NL:RBAMS:2023:1407. For an English translation please see here.