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Facebook Ordered To Stop Tracking Non-Users Or Face Daily £178,000 Fine

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Belgian Privacy Commissioner says Facebook must get user consent to track non-users, but social network will appeal

Facebook has been told to stop collecting information on people who have not signed up for the social network in Belgium or face a massive penalty.

The Belgian Privacy Commission, which has a long running case against Facebook, has given the company 48 hours to stop the practice to avoid a €250,000 (£177,600) per day fine.

Facebook has used the ‘Datr’ cookie for five years and is installed on a device for two years when someone visits a page on the platform – even if they do not have an account. The Commission said Facebook must obtain permission to retrieve user information.

Facebook privacy

data centreA report published by the Commission earlier this year concluded that Facebook was tracking web browsing habits without user consent, in order to help it better target its advertising.

It blamed Facebook’s use of social plug-ins namely its “like” buttons, which are now found on millions of non-Facebook websites. Essentially, Facebook places tracking cookies on users’ computers if they visit any page on the facebook.com domain, including fan pages or other pages that do not require a Facebook account to visit.

And when a user visits a third-party website that has a Facebook like button there, it detects and sends information back to Facebook – even if the user does not interact with the Like button, login, or other extension of the social media site.

Facebook told TechWeekEurope the decision would be appealed.

“We’ve used the datr security cookie for more than five years to keep Facebook secure for 1.5 billion people around the world,” said a spokesperson. “We will appeal this decision and are working to minimize any disruption to people’s access to Facebook in Belgium.”

The ruling is the latest in a series of privacy cases brought against Facebook in recent years. Regulators across the world have questioned the legality of the company’s practices, leading to numerous probes and court cases.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously suggested that privacy is no longer a social norm, although new settings that help users protect their information have been introduced over the past few years.

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