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4th Dec 2022

Facebook allowed to collect data on non-users in Belgium

  • Facebook allowed to track people in Belgium even if they are non-users. (Photo: Maurizio Pesce)

An appeals court in Belgium earlier this week ruled in favour of allowing Facebook to amass data on people in the country who are not registered users of the social media giant.

The ruling reverses a previous court decision that had imposed a tracking ban on Facebook following revelations it was collecting information on non-Facebook users and others who were not logged into their accounts.

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“Belgian courts don’t have international jurisdiction over Facebook Ireland, where the data concerning Europe is processed,” said the appeals court.

But Belgium's privacy watchdog, the Commission for the Protection of Privacy, said the latest ruling means a Belgian resident will be unable to "obtain the protection of his private life through the courts and tribunals when it concerns foreign actors".

The head of the watchdog, Willem Debeuckelaere, said Belgians "remain exposed to massive violations of their privacy".

Facebook places special cookies on people's computers without their permission.

The small files track the internet activity of logged-out users as well as those that had opted out of being tracked.

University researchers in Belgium had revealed the privacy breaches in a report published last year.

They found Facebook uses its social plugins, such as the 'like' button, to monitor the activity. The button has been placed on health and government sites.

The US tech giant, for its part, says the cookies are needed for security reasons.

"We are pleased with the court’s decision and look forward to bringing all our services back online for people in Belgium," said Facebook in a statement.

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