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Facebook stops tracking Belgian users without an account

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhmarketing/8527527570/

Facebook has agreed to stop tracking Belgian visitors who do not have Facebook accounts, after the company was threatened with a fine of 250,000 euros per day if it didn’t stop doing so, reports Ars Technica. Users from Belgium will now need to log in or create an account to see public pages.

The company undertook this measure after Belgium’s independent Privacy Commission took Facebook to court for failing to comply with its privacy laws. Previously, the Belgian Privacy Commission had issued a series of recommendations for Facebook, which asked the company to “refrain from systematically placing long-life and unique identifier cookies with non-users of Facebook,” and “refrain from collecting and using the data of Facebook users by means of cookies and social plug-ins” unless it obtains an “unambiguous and specific consent through an opt-in.”

To comply with the order, Facebook has stopped placing identifying cookies as well as stopped letting Belgian visitors that are not logged in from accessing any pages on the social media platform. The company will also attempt to delete any existing cookies from such users. Facebook plans to appeal the ruling, although it will comply with the order in the mean time.

Interestingly, the Belgian Privacy Commission ruling is based on EU law, and will potentially hold throughout EU. The Ars article mentions that other than Belgium, Netherlands and Germany have also been a part of the task force investigating possible violations of EU law by Facebook. The current ruling might set a precedent where Facebook will be refrained from tracking non-users through the EU. The Austrian Supreme Court is also currently deciding whether to allow a class action lawsuit against Facebook for privacy violation.

Safe harbour strike down: In October, a ruling from the European Court of Justice struck down the Safe Harbor mechanism which facilitated the transfer of personal data from the EU to servers hosted in the US, which essentially meant that user data generated in the EU would have to be hosted in the EU, and be governed by EU laws for data protection. Read more here.

Also read: Is there a fundamental right to privacy in the digital age? Notes from the SFLC.in debate

Image source: Flickr user mkhmarketing

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