Facebook to appeal against Belgium's tracking order

Facebook said it will appeal a Belgium court order forcing the American social media company to stop tracking Belgians who are not members of the site.

Back in June, Belgium's data protection regulator filed a lawsuit against Facebook because it was uncovered that the social media site tracks people who are not members of the site, as well as those who are logged out.

If a user visits a Facebook page, or presses the "Like” button anywhere on the internet, Facebook places the so-called ‘datr’ cookie, which then tracks the user’s browser behaviour.

“We’ve used the ‘datr’ cookie for more than five years to keep Facebook secure for 1.5 billion people around the world,” a spokeswoman said. “We will appeal this decision and are working to minimise any disruption to people’s access to Facebook in Belgium.”

“Facebook cannot follow people on the internet who are not members of Facebook which is very logical because they cannot have given permission to follow them,” said Bart Tommelein, Belgian secretary of state for the protection of privacy in an emailed statement.

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. That argument was rejected by the Belgian privacy regulator. Tommelein said the fact that the Brussels court had ruled meant it had jurisdiction over the company.

The Brussels court ordered Facebook to stop tracking non-Facebook users in Belgium within 48 hours or pay a daily fine of €250,000 to the Belgian privacy regulator.