Friday

19th Jul 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?

The success of the new general data protection regulation (GDPR) will depend on whether data protection authorities enforce the new rules - which, in turn, will be at least partly determined by how many people they employ.

Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline

The EU starts enforcing its general data protection regulation on 25 May - but Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia won't be ready. The delay will cause legal uncertainty.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Survey: 50% of EU staff 'don't know' internal ethics rules
  2. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  3. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  4. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  5. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  6. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  7. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  8. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us