Belgium Sets Facebook Precedent For Europe

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Facebook has agreed to stop tracking non-users in Belgium. The announcement comes one month after a Belgian court ordered Facebook to stop tracking users who are not members of the social network. The order relates to a Facebook cookie that tracks the activities of anyone who visits the website, regardless of whether the person is logged in to the social network or not. The cookie gathers information such as which pages the user visits and how long they stay on each page. Belgian law says that this counts as “personal data” and that companies must have explicit permission from users before gathering such data – something that is not the case for non-members. Facebook has said it will now stop tracking non-users and will endeavour to delete all cookies that are already tracking non-users. It will also require people to log in in order to view any content on the Facebook site. The social network has said it will appeal the ruling in the meantime, arguing that the cookies are necessary in order to protect the security of user accounts. It is possible that data protection watchdogs all over Europe will be looking at this case with interest. Privacy commentator Paul Bernal spoke to the BBC on the matter, saying: “Belgium isn’t applying Belgian law, it’s applying European law, so if they’re applying it in Belgium why shouldn’t they apply it everywhere in Europe?” 

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