Facebook, Google, Twitter face EU fines over service terms

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European authorities are ready to levy financial penalties on big name tech firms over their terms of service

Major tech players such as Facebook, Google and Twitter are reportedly facing potential fines from European Commission officials.

The fines could be issued within the next month because of the failure of these firms to amend their ‘Terms of Service’ for European users.

It comes after years of clashes between European data protection regulators and mostly US-based tech firms, over the way they handle the personal data of European citizens.

Potential Fines

Facebook, Google, Twitter will have to amend their terms of service for European users within a month or face the risk of fines, a European Commission official was reported as saying on Friday by Reuters.

European officials have grown increasingly frustrated at the way American tech firms deal with data privacy, and how quickly they remove illegal or threatening content.

The Commission and European consumer protection authorities will “take action to make sure social media companies comply with EU consumer rules,” the EU official was reported as saying.

Facebook for example is already embroiled in a highly acrimonious dispute with the Belgian data protection watchdog.

That dispute centres on allegations that the social networking giant is tracking the web browsing habits of everyone who visits its website, irrespective of whether they are Facebook users or not.

Terms Of Service

Germany meanwhile has indicated this week that it plans a new law to force firms such as Facebook to remove slanderous or threatening online postings quickly or face fines of up to £42.8 million.

WhatsApp was warned last year over its data sharing policies, and according to the Reuters report, the European Commission has sent Facebook, Google and Twitter letter in December saying that some of their service terms broke EU consumer protection law and that they needed to do more to tackle fraud and scams on their websites.

It seems that European officials and the tech firms involved have already held a ‘constructive’ meeting on the matter to discuss ways to resolve the issues.

According to Reuters, which saw the letters to the tech firms, European officials are unhappy at a number of the Terms of Service items, including one which insists that European consumers seek redress in court in California, where the companies are based, instead of their country of residence.

European officials are also unhappy at the tech firms for not identifying sponsored content clearly, requiring consumers to waive mandatory rights (such as the right to cancel a contract), and an excessive power for the companies to determine the suitability of content generated by users.