Saturday

18th Nov 2017

Focus

Belgium tells Facebook to stop using tracking cookies

  • More than half of Belgium's Internet users are estimated to have a Facebook account (Photo: Maurizio Pesce)

A Belgian court told Facebook on Monday (9 November) it should stop tracking Belgians who aren't a member of the social networking site, or pay a daily penalty of €250,000 for as long as the practice continues.

The ruling comes after Belgium's privacy watchdog sued Facebook, for placing small files called cookies on people's computers, even if they had not given permission. Facebook has appealed the decision.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

A spokesperson for the Dutch-language court of first instance in Brussels said in a press release Monday that these cookies contain personal data, and that Facebook may only place them on users' computers if it has been given “unambiguous consent.”

“If the [Internet] surfer has a Facebook account, one may assume that he has given this consent, but if the surfer has no Facebook account, then Facebook has to explicitly ask for permission, and give the required explanation,” spokesperson Anouk Devenyns said.

She added that Facebook places cookies that track whether an internet user visited a Facebook page “of a friend, or a retail chain, a political party, a self-help group, or another association”.

They can subsist for two years.

“The judge emphasised that not only is the placing of the cookies, but also the collecting of the personal data via these cookies, contrary to the Belgian privacy law, and even illegal,” the spokesperson noted.

It is the first time that a European privacy watchdog successfully sued Facebook for not complying with privacy law.

Following the verdict, Facebook released a short statement about its use of the tracking cookie, the so-called “datr cookie”.

“We've used the datr cookie for more than five years to keep Facebook secure for 1.5 billion people around the world. We will appeal this decision and are working to minimise any disruption to people's access to Facebook in Belgium,” the company said, not going into the fact that it is the tracking of non-members of Facebook the Belgian court is most concerned about.

According to the most recent data from Internet World Stats, more than half of Belgium's Internet users have a Facebook account.

The ruling comes a month after European judges ruled that an EU-US data transfer pact was invalid, following a complaint against Facebook Ireland.

Feature

EU to analyse role of Facebook and Google

The EU will start an assessment into the role of online platforms. But the increased influence of internet companies has already been discussed by 'internet critics' for several years.

EU Parliament 'cookie' restrictions worry online media

The European Parliament and groups representing newspapers and magazines are at odds over how new privacy rules will affect the media, especially restrictions on website cookies - but one MEP thinks it could spark new business models.

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse