Facebook was given 48 hours to stop tracking internet users or risk having to pay fines of up to €250,000 a day.
A Belgian court gave the social media giant the ultimatum in a bid to stop the company tracking the online activity of internet users who do not hold accounts with the social network.
The case was lodged by Belgium’s privacy watchdog, who claimed that Facebook indiscriminately tracks internet users who are not even members of their network. It said that when a user visits a page on the site or clicks “like” or “share” buttons, their activity is tracked.
A statement by the court said: “Today the judge … ordered the social network Facebook to stop tracking and registering internet usage by people who surf the internet in Belgium, in the 48 hours which follow this statement.”
“If Facebook ignores this order it must pay a fine of €250,000 a day to the Belgian privacy commission,” it continued.
The US-based company said it would challenge the order. “We will appeal this decision and are working to minimise any disruption to people’s access to Facebook in Belgium,” it stated.
The Belgian court’s order was made in regard to a special cookie used by Facebook that meant non-members were tracked for up to two years after visiting a page owned by the tech giant.
The tracking cookie meant the company could hold data on the user whenever they paid further visits to pages on the site or clicked on like or link buttons.
Facebook said its ‘datr cookie’ was safe and posed no threat to users. “We’ve used the datr cookie for more than five years to keep Facebook secure for 1.5 billion people around the world,” a statement by a spokesman for the company said.
However, the Belgian court’s own statement said that Facebook’s actions breached the country’s laws.
“The judge ruled that this is personal data, which Facebook can only use if the internet user expressly gives their consent, as Belgian privacy law dictates,” it clarified.