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A judge in Belgium has ordered Facebook to stop tracking Internet users, specifically those who don’t have an account, based on apparent lack of consent. The court warned that failure to do so within the next 48 hours could result in fines of up to $269,000 a day (250,000 euros). Not surprisingly, the social networking company says it’ll appeal the decision.
Belgium’s privacy watchdog group brought forth the case this summer, alleging that Facebook was indiscriminately tracking Internet users when they visited a page on the social network or clicked on “like” or “share,” even if they weren’t one of the site’s 1.55 billion monthly active users. But if you’re a Facebook user, don’t worry — the company will still be able to track you.
According to a statement provided to the BBC, the judge ruled that the information collected by Facebook was “personal data, which Facebook can only use if the Internet user expressly gives their consent, as Belgian privacy law dictates.”
In its defense, Facebook said that its tracking isn’t anything new. Rather, it’s the same cookie that the company has been using for the past five years “to keep Facebook secure for 1.5 billion people around the world,” said a Facebook spokesperson.
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Tech companies have been running into legal issues within Europe recently, including Google and Facebook. Last month, the European Union’s top court declared that a data transfer deal between Europe and the United States was “invalid.” The ruling said that the “safe harbor” deal offered room for U.S. authorities to potentially interfere with user rights and there were insufficient protections in place to ensure that interference wouldn’t happen.
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