The Belgian data protection authority has lost its legal battle with Facebook over whether the social network could track the online activities of non-Facebook users in Belgium who visit Facebook pages.
Belgium’s data protection regulator took Facebook to court a year ago, accusing it of breaking EU privacy law by tracking people without a Facebook account without their consent.
At the heart of the case was a so-called ‘Datr’ cookie, which Facebook said it uses to protect its platform and the data of its users against “malicious attacks.” Facebook places the function on people’s browsers when they visit a Facebook.com site or click a Facebook ‘Like’ button on other websites, allowing it to track the online activities of that browser.
The lower court ruled in favor of the regulator and ordered Facebook to stop storing the data or face a daily fine of 250,000 euros ($277,800). After the ruling, Facebook said it would comply and stop using the ‘datr’ cookie to track non-user activity. Shortly thereafter, Facebook appealed the ruling to the Brussels Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal disagreed with the lower court’s decision and the case was thrown out because the social media network’s European servers are in Ireland, not Belgium.
In light of the ruling of the Brussels Court of Appeal, Facebook can now start showing its pages to Belgians who aren’t signed up to its service.