Facebook in Europe was dealt a new blow after a judge ruled the company ran afoul of privacy laws.
According to news from TechCrunch, citing judges in Belgium, a court ruled that Facebook’s deployment of technology, including cookies and social plug-ins to track internet users, was illegal. TechCrunch noted Facebook failed to explain exactly how it was using the digital activity of the people on which it collected information. The company is on the hook for a fine of up to as much as $124 million if it doesn’t meet the court’s requirements that it stop tracking the internet habits of Belgium users. The social media giant also has to get rid of any data it illegally acquired from people living in the country.
Facebook told TechCrunch it will appeal the ruling. “The cookies and pixels we use are industry standard technologies and enable hundreds of thousands of businesses to grow their businesses and reach customers across the EU,” said Facebook’s VP of Public Policy for EMEA, Richard Allan. “We require any business that uses our technologies to provide clear notice to end users, and we give people the right to opt out of having data collected on sites and apps off Facebook being used for ads.”
Belgium’s privacy laws have been on the books since 2015 after a civil lawsuit was brought against Facebook for tracking non-users of its social media platform. After failing to get the responses it wanted from Facebook in 2015, the Belgian Privacy Commission took Facebook to court. Since then, the company has been embroiled in a legal battle, filing appeal after appeal.
“Facebook collects information about us all when we surf the internet,” the Belgian Privacy Commission stated. “To this end, Facebook uses various technologies, such as the famous ‘cookies’ or the ‘social plug-ins’ (for example, the ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ buttons) or the ‘pixels’ that are invisible to the naked eye. It uses them on its website but also, and especially, on the websites of third parties. Thus, the survey reveals that even if you have never entered the Facebook domain, Facebook is still able to follow your browsing behavior without you knowing it, let alone without you wanting it, thanks to these invisible pixels that Facebook has placed on more than 10,000 other sites.”