Facebook will block Belgians without accounts from access to its content

3 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After privacy ruling, Facebook now requires Belgium users to log in to view pages.

Facebook has outlined its plans to follow a court ruling in Belgium requiring it not to track people who do not have accounts on the social networking website. The change means that if you don’t have a Facebook account, you can’t view Belgian Facebook pages — including public profiles like those of local businesses. A study commissioned by the Belgian Privacy Commission (BPC) reported in March that Facebook had been monitoring users accounts through cookies, without their permission. The dispute largely hinges around Facebook’s use of a special cookie called ‘datr’ that it claims helps it distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate visits to its website, and identifies browsers and not individuals.

In the US, Facebook can place cookies like these without asking for permission, but in Europe, companies must get user permission to plant tracking software. When they thereafter visited a Web page on gayworld.be, a website that includes a Facebook social plug-in, the inspection of the network traffic revealed that the datr cookie was sent to the facebook.com domain in the cookie header of the HTTP requests, according to the experts. An order from the Belgian Court is expected to be finalized this week, after being delayed due to issues with the process of translating the documents into English. In October, an EU ruling invalidated a 15-year-old agreement between European countries and American companies about the transfer of personal information to US data centers. The company said it would cease setting datr cookies for non-registered users in Belgium, and delete existing datr cookies for such users to the extent it is technically feasible.

Since the Belgian ruling relies on European law — not just Belgian law — other European countries could similarly contest Facebook’s tracking software as well. The company claims that it has only one establishment in the European Union in Ireland, and Irish national data protection law can be applied to all its European users, according to records.

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