September 11, 2017 / 1:26 PM / 14 days ago

Facebook fined 1.2 million euros by Spanish data watchdog

Miniature Facebook banners are seen on snacks prepared for the visit by Facebook's Chief Operating Officer in Paris, France, January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

MADRID (Reuters) - Facebook has been fined 1.2 million euros ($1.4 million) for allegedly collecting personal information from users in Spain that could then be used for advertising, the national data protection watchdog said on Monday.

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

The 1.2 million euro fine is a fraction of Facebook’s quarterly revenue of about $8 billion and stock market capitalization of around $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 email 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,” the authority 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 information collected added to what is already associated with a Facebook account, AEPD said.

It said it also found evidence the network kept information for more than 17 months after users closed their accounts.

Reporting by Robert Hetz and Isla Binnie; Editing by Mark Potter

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