Dutch government says it may stop using Facebook over privacy concerns

Technology

Morning traffic outside Meta headquarters, in Mountain View, California, U.S. November 9, 2022.
Peter Dasilva | Reuters

The Dutch government said Friday that it may be forced to stop using Facebook after a warning from the Netherlands’ privacy regulator about the Meta-owned social media platform’s privacy risks.

The Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) issued a statement advising the Dutch Interior Ministry not to rely on Facebook pages to communicate with citizens if it doesn’t have a clear idea of how Facebook uses the personal data of people who visit government pages.

The Interior Ministry had previously asked the DPA to advise on whether the government could use Facebook pages in a compliant way.

The government wants clarity from Meta “as soon as possible, at the latest before the summer recess, on how they are addressing our concerns,” Alexandra van Huffelen, the Dutch Minister for Digitalization, said in a statement.

“Otherwise, in line with the advice of the DPA, we will be forced to stop our activities on Facebook pages,” she added.

The Dutch DPA’s chairman, Aleid Wolfsen, said in a statement that “people who visit a government page trust that their personal and sensitive information is in safe hands.”

“The fact that this can also involve information about children and young people makes this even more important. They are vulnerable online and need extra protection,” Wolfsen said in the statement, which was translated to English via Google Translate.

A Meta spokesperson told CNBC: “We fundamentally disagree with the assessment that underpins this advice, which is wrong on the facts and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding as to how our products work.”

“We review all Meta products to ensure they comply with laws in the regions in which we offer our services, and will continue to engage with the Government to ensure they can use social media to communicate with people,” the Meta spokesperson added.

The DPA advice serves as further evidence of “growing distrust between European regulators and Meta,” Matthew Holman, a tech, privacy, and AI partner at law firm Cripps, told CNBC via email.

Holman said that the Dutch regulator’s concern is likely to be that user data “is shared with government departments on Meta’s platform and could still be subject to security issues, monitoring or access by US federal agencies.”

– CNBC’s April Roach contributed to this report

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