Belgian ban on Facebook cookies should apply to all of Europe, privacy watchdogs say

Facebook disagrees, and says in any case it plans to appeal the Belgian court's interim ruling

European data protection authorities want Facebook to stop using cookies to track people who don't have a Facebook account.

As part of a case brought by the Belgian Privacy Commission, a Brussels court ordered Facebook in an interim ruling not to track people in Belgium using its "datr" cookie unless they have an account on the site.

Facebook is appealing that ban, which finally took effect last week.

On Monday, data protection authorities in five European Union countries published a joint declaration calling on Facebook to act as if the ban applied across the EU. The five formed a "contact group" to communicate with Facebook about their coordinated investigation into changes to the company's privacy policy.

"While recognizing the right of Facebook to appeal the aforementioned judgment, the contact group expects Facebook to comply with these orders in all territories of the EU as a means of contributing to ensure consistency with the requirements” of the 1995 and 2002 EU privacy directives, they wrote. The declaration was signed by national DPAs in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain, and the regional data protection commissioner in Hamburg, Germany.

It seems the authorities will be disappointed: Facebook won't stop using the cookies outside Belgium, although it is willing to talk about why it uses them.

"The interim order obtained by the Belgian DPA threatens the security we can offer to everyone who uses Facebook, and we are appealing it to a court that will have the benefit of all the facts. Although the order has no effect outside of Belgium, we welcome the opportunity to share the security threats created by the order with other interested regulators," a company representative said via email.

The Privacy Commission's objection to the datr cookie is that Facebook sets it in the browser of anyone who visits the site facebook.com -- perhaps to check out the public web page of an event -- but then receives it each time that browser is used to visit any webpage containing a Facebook social plugin, such as a Like button, even when the visitor doesn't have a Facebook account.

Facebook says that the datr cookie is used to maintain the security of its site, helping it stop 400,000 unauthorized attempts to take over people's accounts each day, including 33,000 in Belgium in the past month.

As the Belgian cookie ban came into effect last week, the company's head of security, Alex Stamos, blogged about all the things the company will have to stop doing in Belgium because it can't use the cookies.

Those steps include blocking visitors not signed into Facebook from accessing the site, and forcing Facebook account holders to jump through additional security hoops when logging in from an unrecognized browser.

The five DPAs warned Facebook in their declaration that its response to the ruling should not have any negative effects on Internet users.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Facebook

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?