The Belgian Privacy Commission has published its annual report for the year 2015.

In its report, the Privacy Commission highlights certain numbers and statistics, summarises its most important cases and projects, and provides a chronological overview of the most mediatised non-compliance case it handled in 2015, the “Facebook case”

1. The “Facebook case”

It all started in February 2015, when university researchers, commissioned by the Belgian Privacy Commission, published a report containing a legal analysis, under Belgian law, of Facebook’s revised terms of use and privacy policy. The report concluded that Facebook’s tracking activities violated both European and Belgian data protection legislation. Based on this report, the Privacy Commission started court proceedings against Facebook.

In November 2015, the President of the Brussels Court of First Instance pronounced its long-awaited judgment in the “Facebook case”. The court sided with the Belgian Privacy Commission, and ordered Facebook to stop tracking non-users in Belgium within 48 hours as from the service of the judgment, subject to penalty payments of EUR 250,000 for each day of continued infringement.

Facebook has appealed this judgment (the appeal is currently pending), but – in order to avoid the penalty payments becoming due – has in the meanwhile also taken certain measures to conform to the judgment of the President of the Brussels Court of First Instance.

If you are interested in reading more about the “Facebook case”, click here to read our newsflash “(Partial) victory for Belgian Privacy Commission in Facebook lawsuit : three things companies should take away from this case”.

2. Themes / projects 2015

In its report, the Privacy Commission identifies the following as its main themes / projects in 2015:

  • Cookies

Following the growing importance of cookies and the number of questions addressed to the Privacy Commission in this respect, the Privacy Commission issued a formal recommendation on the use of cookies (Recommendation 1/2015NL version / FR version ).

  • Drones

The Privacy Commission advised the Belgian government on its draft drones legislation. This legislation entered into force on 25 April 2016. Click here to read more.

  • Anti-terrorism

The Privacy Commission advised the Belgian government on draft legislative proposals relating to the processing of passenger data, the adoption of supplementary measures in the fight against terrorism, and relating to the identification of users of prepaid cards.

  • Privacy on the work floor

Publication of a thematic file on privacy on the work floor on the Privacy Commission’s website, focussing on prevention of infringements (topics including geo-localisation, whistleblowing, BYOD policies, camera surveillance, and monitoring of employee email and Internet use). Link to the thematic file : https://www.privacycommission.be/nl/privacy-op-de-werkvloer (NL) / https://www.privacycommission.be/fr/la-vie-privee-sur-le-lieu-de-travail (FR)

  • Educational package relating to “image rights”

The Privacy Commission launched a brochure, an educational package, and a thematic website relating to the processing of photographs and natural persons’ “image rights”, aimed at educating children and adolescents, parents, and schools.

Link to thematic website: https://www.ikbeslis.be/ (NL) / https://www.jedecide.be/ (FR)

3. Some numbers

Equally interesting, are the numbers published by the Privacy Commission:

Questions/complaints 4.192 files (increase with 366 files compared to 2014)
Requests for information 3.561 files (increase with 342 files compared to 2014)

* most frequent topics: camera surveillance, employee data, image rights, direct marketing, Internet

Advice/recommendations/authorisations 957 files (increase with 43 files compared to 2014)

* of which 517 involving the Sector Committee for the National Identification Number

Total number of data processing notifications filed 9.799 (increase with 1.432 compared to 2014)

* of which 5.025 for monitoring and surveillance

Total number of video-camera surveillance notifications filed 6.240 (increase with 886 compared to 2014)
Q&A (short advice provided by telephone or email) 6.051 files (increase with 1.885 files compared to 2014)
Presentations & lectures given 62
Privacy Commission in the press 1.609 press articles

The Privacy Commission explains this significant rise in numbers by referring to its own significant increase in visibility with the general public in 2015. The Privacy Commission has indeed been very active in the media and in the public debate in 2015, and high-profile cases such as the “Facebook case” increase citizen’s awareness of their own rights and potential risks. Let’s see how this trend further develops in 2016, with the continuation of the “Facebook case” and the preparation of the national data protection authorities for the application of the GDPR as from 25 May 2018. The full text of the annual report and the accompanying brochure published by the Privacy Commission can be accessed (in French and Dutch) via the following link: