Belgian civil servants to impose fines for privacy violations

The Belgian Secretary of State for Privacy Bart Tommelein (Flemish liberal)is to bring forward legislation introducing hefty fines for violations of privacy.

European Ministers are currently involved in talks on fresh privacy legislation. The Euro laws should give EU member states greater powers to clamp down on privacy violations by big international companies like Facebook.

In Belgium though the minister responsible, Flemish liberal Bart Tommelein, intends to bring forward legislation this autumn that will allow Belgian civil servants to impose fines. At present only a judge is able to take such action in Belgium.

Mr Tommelein told VRT News: "If businesses don't respect privacy and use unlawful methods, Belgium's Privacy Commission will first have to sound an alert. If companies don't take any heed, fines will then be on the cards."

Mr Tommelein drew a parallel with the media and energy sectors: "Here independent regulators can establish violations and following a warning administrative fines can be imposed."

Belgium's Privacy Commission will need to be reformed turning it into a regulatory body that will have to set out all matters related to privacy.

Bart Tommelein: "In the Netherlands fines can amount to 810,000 euros. That may be a big share of a business's turnover. We're not in the business of imposing big fines on small companies, but we do wish to make it clear to big business that privacy is important. I'm thinking of big players like Facebook."

The minister hasn't yet come to a final decision on the size of the fines, but is clear they should approach those valid in the Netherlands.