Fines for privacy breaches up to €810,000 to be proposed

Summary

Ahead of EU regulations on the issue, Belgian secretary of state Bart Tommelein is drafting a proposal to fine internet giants who breach national privacy laws

“Keep up the pressure”

Belgium’s privacy commission should be able to impose fines of up to €810,000 against companies that break privacy and data protection laws, secretary of state Bart Tommelein has proposed. Tommelein, tasked with federal privacy issues, is due to present a bill later this year, pre-empting a European directive under discussion.

The EU’s Council of Ministers is considering privacy regulations as a response to global internet giants, like Google and Facebook, that gather user information and exploit it for commercial gain. While most users give permission – albeit in many cases inadvertently – it was recently revealed that Facebook also tracks the website behaviour of non-users who have come in contact with websites Facebook is linked to.

Belgian law allows for criminal prosecutions for breaches of data protection laws, but they are rarely carried out. European rules could still be up to 18 months from being approved.

“After the summer, I’ll be presenting a bill to parliament to transform the Privacy Commission into a regulator with the power to impose its own administrative fines,” he explained. “That way we will not only be prepared for European measures, we’ll be in a stronger position, and we’ll keep up the pressure. I want to send a clear signal: Privacy has become such an important issue; we want to show that we are taking it seriously.”

Photo by Michell Zappa

Belgian government

Belgium is a federal state made up of three regions and three communities, based on language (Dutch, French and German). The federal level is responsible for issues such as justice, defence, finances and foreign affairs – matters that affect the entire country. Belgium is also a constitutional monarchy.
Regions - The regions are comparable to American states or German Länder. They are geographical entities, responsible for matters related to their territory, such as public works, environment and economy. Belgium’s three regions are the Flemish Region, the Brussels-Capital Region and the Walloon Region.
Communities - Communities are responsible for matters that directly affect residents, such as education, welfare and culture. Belgium’s three communities are the Flemish Community, the French Community and the German Community.
Flanders - Although regions and communities do not overlap exactly, the Flemish Region and the Flemish Community have merged into the Flemish government. Its official language is Dutch. The Flemish Parliament sits in Brussels, which is the official capital city of Flanders (as well as Belgium).
11

population of Belgium in millions of people, with 6.2 million living in Flanders.

6

number of state reforms that have resulted in the federal system as it is today.

4

number of years for which the federal House of Representatives and the Senate are elected.