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Facebook fined US$1.4m by Spanish data watchdog

FACEBOOK has been fined 1.2 million euros (US$1.4 million) for allegedly collecting personal information from users in Spain that could then be used for advertising, the national data protection watchdog (AEPD) said yesterday.

The fine stemmed from an investigation into the social network company conducted alongside similar probes in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, the AEPD watchdog said.

The 1.2 million euro fine is a fraction of Facebook’s quarterly revenue of about US$8 billion and stock market capitalization of around US$435 billion.

AEPD said it found three cases in which Facebook had collected details such as the gender, religious beliefs, personal tastes and browsing history of its millions of Spanish users without informing them how such information would be used.

Facebook did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.

According to the AEPD, the tech giant did not sufficiently inform users about how it would use data collected on third-party websites, and did not obtain consent to use it.

“Facebook’s privacy policy contains generic and unclear terms,” AEPD said in a statement.

“The social network uses specifically protected data for advertising, among other purposes, without obtaining users’ express consent as data protection law demands, a serious infringement.”

Using cookies, Facebook also collects data from people who do not have an account on the social network but navigate other pages containing a “like” button, AEPD said.

Facebook users’ activity can also be tracked on third-party sites, and the data collected added to what is already linked with a Facebook account, AEPD said.

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