Belgian Court Tells Facebook To Stop Tracking Users

The social network has lost a court battle with Belgium’s privacy watchdog and has been ordered to end the practice of storing personal data from non-users.

If Facebook Inc. fails to comply with the ruling it will be forced to pay a fine of $269,000 per day, according to a statement from the court. The Belgian privacy watchdog sued FB after the company did not respond to its requests to change its privacy policy in order to comply with local laws, writes Stephanie Bodoni for Bloomberg.

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Belgium takes on Facebook in privacy battle

In May the president of the Belgian commission, Willem Debeuckelaere, told the press that Facebook’s “disrespectful” use of personal data without knowledge or consent “needs tackling.” Now the court has ruled that “if a surfer doesn’t have an own Facebook account, Facebook from now on will have to explicitly solicit consent and provide the needed explanations.”

Facebook was accused of indiscriminately tracking users Internet activity using browser histories and cookies left on the computer after they use its features such as liking or sharing a link.

Privacy watchdogs from the European Union’s 28 member states are coordinating their investigations into possible violations of EU law under Facebook’s privacy policy. Facebook told its users last year that a new policy would be implemented in January, a move which resulted in an investigation from Dutch regulators.

Multiple legal battles over privacy in Europe

Facebook spokeswoman Sally Aldous released a statement promising that the company would appeal the court ruling. Facebook is “working to minimize any disruption to people’s access to Facebook in Belgium,” she said.

The company claimed that it was only subject to privacy laws in Ireland, where Facebook’s European headquarters is based. Lawyers for Facebook have used the same argument in legal battles in other countries, including Germany.

Belgium’s privacy watchdog claims it has the power to investigate possible violations of privacy rights, and has previously warned of the dangers of Facebook’s data collection policies. User activity is tracked through the use of social plugins including the “like” and “share” buttons, comments and other tools.

European authorities are increasingly cracking down on technology giants such as Facebook and Google, attempting to better control the data that the companies collect on users.