Yahoo penalised in Belgium for not disclosing personal data

By EDRi · March 11, 2009

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Yahoo in Belgien für versäumte Offenlegung persönlicher Daten abgestraft|]

This article is also available in:
Macedonian: [Јаху казнет во Белгија поради… |,mk/]

Yahoo was fined by a Belgian court on 2 March 2009 for refusing to hand over
to the Belgium authorities personal data of people involved in a cyber-crime

The Belgium authorities had required Yahoo to disclose detailed account
information for a number of e-mail addresses used by alleged cons under
pseudonyms. Yahoo refused, arguing that such a request should have followed
the proper channels and should have been addressed to US authorities and not
to them as a commercial company. They would be willing to offer the
information at the request of the US authorities.

However, the prosecution claimed that the company should hand over the
required data as the company has operation services in Belgium and therefore
they should comply with the laws of the country.

The court ruled in favour of the prosecution and fined the American company
55 000 euro plus 10 000 euro for each day it keeps refusing to hand over the
requested users’ data. The judge said that the procedure for requesting data
“poses absolutely no problem with Google and Microsoft”.

The official statement of the company was that it strongly disagreed with
the court’s ruling and that it would file an appeal. “Yahoo! Inc., a U.S.
corporation, does not have business operations in Belgium and does not
maintain the customer information at issue in Belgium. The United States and
Belgium have a formal international treaty which the prosecutor should have
followed to properly seek information from a U.S. company. Yahoo! is not
withholding information from the Belgium government. We have a legal and
policy basis for not disclosing information in this type of case until the
recognized international legal process is followed. We have raised this
issue with the U.S. Government,” was the company statement.

Yahoo seems to be more cautious after fierce criticism as it happened in
2007 after having complied with the request of the Chinese authorities and
gave up personal account information which led to the imprisonment of a
political dissident back. Since then, the company has signed up for the
Global Network Initiative (GNI), an organisation aimed at preserving free
speech on the Internet. GNI members are bound to challenge requests for
disclosure of private data from governments in case these requests are
considered to be in breach of international human rights laws.

Belgium condemns Yahoo! for its refusal to communicate personal data (only
in French, 3.03.2009)

Yahoo Fined By Belgian Court For Refusing To Give Up E-Mail Account Info

Yahoo Fined By Belgian Court For Refusing To Give Up E-Mail Account Info

EDRIgram: Internet giants gather for freedom of speech – Global Network
Initiative (5.11.2008)