Belgium court bans Facebook cookie monster tracking system

10 Nov 2015

Facebook’s controversial datr cookie, which allegedly tracks its visitors – whether users or not – for two years, has been ordered down by a Belgian court, which has threatened fines of up to €250,000 a day should the social media giant refuse.

Facebook is appealing the decision, with the datr cookie something it claims it uses “to keep Facebook secure for 1.5bn people around the world”.

The Belgian court has made its decision after looking at claims that the datr cookie stays on the visitor’s device for up to two years, allowing Facebook to consult it whenever the user comes back to Facebook pages, or to any page where they could like or recommend via a Facebook link.

About a month ago, Facebook threatened that, should it fall foul of the Belgian authorities, it is the users who would suffer, facing several more privacy checks when logging in. What a threat.

Although the company has cooled on that, by the sounds of its post-ruling statement, which said: “We will appeal this decision and are working to minimise any disruption to people’s access to Facebook in Belgium.”

Not just a Belgian affair

Yesterday, the Belgian court brought to a head a long-running battle between Facebook and the Belgian Privacy Commission – its internet watchdog – which accuses the company of storing the personal information of non-users.

Indeed, it’s not just Belgium that is offering Facebook a rocky resting place at the moment, with EU-wide investigations into internet data protection promising an uncertain time for many more tech giants in the months and years to come.

For example, in Ireland, the Data Protection Commissioner is about to start, several years after it was originally petitioned to do so, fully investigating an Austrian citizen’s complaint over how his personal data is handled by Facebook’s EMEA HQ, which is based in Ireland.

This follows the European Court of Justice’s ruling that consigned Safe Harbour to a messy, yet somehow still not executed, death.

Facebook image via Lewis Tse Pui Lung/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic