Just Because It's Trending Doesn't Mean It's True

Facebook Ordered By Belgian Court To Stop Tracking Belgian Surfers Or Face Fine

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Mon, 09 Nov 2015 16:08:54 Z)


Belgian media are reporting that a Brussels court has ordered Facebook to stop tracking the surfing habbits of Belgians who are not logged into the service. Facebook has 48 hours to comply with the order or it will face a €250,000/day fine (about $270,000).

Because Facebook's like/share buttons are ubiquitous on the web the company can see who is visiting the websites that have the buttons and through the use of cookies it is able to construct detailed profiles of who is visiting what. According to Belgian privacy law this falls under the processing of personal data and this is not allowed unless the person whose data is being processed has given explicit permission for it.

Users who are logged in to Facebook have given this permission by accepting the site's terms of service. But Belgians who are not logged into the service or who don't have a Facebook account have not given this permission according to the judge so Facebook has to stop collecting and processing their data. The ruling follows a complaint by the Belgian privacy commission, a government agency set up to enforce privacy laws.

This decision can have far-reaching consequences for other companies dealing with traffic coming from Belgium. Advertising companies use similar techniques to track who is visiting websites with their ads on them so profiles can be constructed to target ads to individual surfers.

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About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk