The Court of Appeal of Brussels refers the Facebook case to the Court of Justice of the European Union

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8 May 2019
On 8 May 2019, the Court of Appeal of Brussels ruled in the Facebook case following the pleadings of 27 and 28 March 2019. The Authority argued that the Belgian courts are competent and demanded that Facebook comply with Belgian and European privacy rules. Before ruling on the merits, the Court of Appeal wants to ensure that the Authority can pursue the case against Facebook given the entry into application of the GDPR as of 25/05/2018. For this reason, the Court of Appeal decided to refer certain questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Pleadings

On 27 and 28 March 2019, oral arguments took place before the Court of Appeal of Brussels. Facebook had appealed the judgment of 16 February 2018 of the Dutch-speaking Court of First Instance in Brussels, which had ruled in favor of the Data Protection Authority in every aspect.

The Authority therefore maintained its position to protect the data of Belgian citizens. The Authority believes that Facebook (still) infringes Belgian and European legislation by collecting information on the browsing behavior of Internet users, whether or not they are members of the social network. To this end, Facebook places cookies on their computers and then collects these cookies via its social plugins and pixels on the visited websites. By doing so, Facebook collects information on the surfing behavior of millions of Internet users.

Judgment

The Court of Appeal decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union to rule on whether the Authority has the possibility to pursue its legal action against Facebook.

The Court of Appeal did not rule on the merits of the Authority's arguments towards Facebook. In fact, the Court of Appeal confirms that the case raises important questions regarding the application of European law.

The GDPR provides for a new cooperation mechanism between European data protection authorities, in particular a one-stop shop. The question therefore arises as to whether this administrative mechanism also affects the possibility of initiating proceedings before a court. The Court of Appeal in Brussels therefore asks the Court of Justice of the European Union to clarifiy this issue.

Position of the Authority

The Authority is pleased that the Court of Appeal decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union, regardless of the outcome of the proceedings before the Court of Justice. The Authority is particularly pleased to be able to make progress on the issues raised by Facebook's practices and their impact on the protection of citizens' data.

The Facebook Case was initiated in 2015 by the former Privacy Commission. The Authority's new Executive Committee has taken over this case and the Authority is already committed to raise the case with its European colleagues – members of the EDPB - in order to ensure a high level of protection of citizens' rights in the short term.