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Facebook to Belgian data cops: Block all the cookies across the web, then!

Free content ad network complies with ruling – for now

By Kelly Fiveash, 3 Dec 2015

Facebook has confirmed that it will temporarily comply with an order from a Belgian court to stop tracking people who don't have accounts on the free content ad network.

However, it has attempted to frame Belgium's privacy watchdog's successful complaint as flawed by claiming that blocking its data cookie will expose netizens in the country to security threats.

Facebook, which plans to appeal against the ruling, said in a statement:

We had hoped to address the BPC [Belgian Privacy Commission]'s concerns in a way that allowed us to continue using a security cookie that protected Belgian people from more than 33,000 takeover attempts in the past month.

We're disappointed we were unable to reach an agreement and now people will be required to log in or register for an account to see publicly available content on Facebook.

We expect the BPC to apply these restrictions across the web, which could restrict Belgians' access to websites with maps, videos, share buttons, and similar content.

Last month, the Mark Zuckerberg-run company was told to halt its practices or else face daily fines of €250,000.

Belgian's privacy regulator had complained that Facebook was tracking everyone that visited pages hosted on its website, even if they didn't have accounts with the ad-bloated service.

On Tuesday, Facebook Ireland's data protection wonk, Yvonne Cunnane, wrote a letter to the commission in which she griped about the ruling's apparent security implications for Belgian users.

"We maintain our position that the datr cookie plays an essential role in ensuring the security of the Facebook Service, and we are confident that the evidence will demonstrate this conclusively," she said.

She also dismissed a statement reportedly made by BPC president on Belgian TV. Willem Debeuckelaere reportedly commented on the ruling (in Dutch): “This is not what we asked for... We asked them to stop following people who are not a Facebook member. Period. It seems like they are playing a game in which they are trying to corner us."

Cunnane said: "These statements are particularly troubling because they appear to fault Facebook for undertaking the very steps the Commission sought to obtain in these proceedings."

The Register sought comment from Belgium's privacy watchdog. However, it hadn't got back to us with a response at time of publication. ®

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