Facebook appeals Belgian privacy ruling

FacebookSocial notworking site Facebook is to appeal a court ruling ordering it to stop tracking the online activities of non-Facebook users in Belgium who visit Facebook pages, or face a $269,000 daily fine.

Belgium’s data protection regulator took the outfit to court in June, accusing it of trampling on EU privacy law by tracking people without a Facebook account without their consent.

The case focused on the ‘datr’ cookie, which Facebook places on people’s browsers when they visit a Facebook.com site or click a Facebook ‘Like’ button on other websites, allowing it to track the online activities of that browser.

“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,” a spokesman said.

The Brussels court ordered Facebook to stop tracking non-Facebook users in Belgium within 48 hours or pay a daily fine of $269,000 to the Belgian privacy regulator.

Margot Neyskens, spokeswoman for Bart Tommelein, Belgian secretary of state for the protection of privacy said that Facebook can ot follow people on the internet who are not members of Facebook.

This is logical because they cannot have permission to follow them, she said.

Facebook says the cookie only identifies browsers, not people and helps it to distinguish legitimate visits from those by attackers.

The company has also argued that since it has its European headquarters in Ireland it should be regulated solely by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.

The Belgian privacy regulator thought that argument was pants as the fact the Brussels court had ruled meant it had jurisdiction over the company.