Facebook is at Odds with the EU…Again

Update – May 6 2016: The European activist who brought the case against Facebook (detailed below) is reportedly starting a new watchdog group for data protection. You can learn more in this CSM article.

Original Text: Facebook and Europe have been at odds over various online privacy-related issues in the past, and this week, the disagreement is occurring in Belgium.

As reported by TechCrunch, Facebook could face a fine of over $250K (USD) a day because of their use of cookies to track non-Facebook users in Belgium. A case was brought forth by the Belgium Data Protection Agency (DPA) regarding “how Facebook deploys tracking cookies and social plug-ins on third party websites to track the Internet activity of users and non-Facebook users.”

The DPA said Facebook hadn’t adequately answered questions about how it collects and tracks non-Facebook users that visit its site. As a result, Belgium ruled Facebook can “no longer collect and store online information from Belgian residents who do not have Facebook accounts.

Nor surprisingly, Facebook plans to appeal this decision. It argues its tracking cookies are a security mechanisms for users, although it has not explained how.

The ruling in Belgium comes in the wake of another landmark ruling involving Facebook in Europe. Last month the European Court of Justice (The EU’s highest court) ruled against the Safe Harbor agreement. This ruling invalidated an existing agreement between the US and the EU that permitted companies to move “digital information” between the two places. Tech giants – like Facebook – benefited greatly from the Safe Harbor agreement.

Facebook was also in the news earlier this week when it announced it’s newest facial recognition feature. There was much question over if Europe will allow the feature, however. They previously rejected facial recognition software in 2011, and when they finally did implement the technology in 2014 did so in a limited way.