Facebook, facing fines in Belgium, is appealing data-privacy ruling

Facebook, which on Monday was ordered by a Belgian court to stop collecting online information about non-users and is facing fines of up to $270,000 a day for non-compliance within 48 hours, is appealing the ruling.

Digital cookies that scoop up information are used not just by Facebook but by sites that are linked to Facebook because they use the social network’s likes or shares. The company has been targeted over this issue not only in Belgium, but also elsewhere in Europe, as I’ve written.

Alex Stamos, the social network’s chief security officer, defended the use of the cookie in a post last month, calling it a tool of security, not surveillance: “We use the datr cookie to help differentiate legitimate visits to our website from illegitimate ones.” He said discontinuing use of the cookie would make it more cumbersome for users of the service in Facebook to prove they are who they say there are.

“We’ve used the datr security cookie for more than five years to keep Facebook secure for 1.5 billion people around the world,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email today. “We will appeal this decision and are working to minimize any disruption to people’s access to Facebook in Belgium.”

In his post, Stamos also said the data Facebook collects about non-users is about browsers only, not individual people. “For example, if the datr cookie demonstrates that a browser has been visiting hundreds of sites in the last five minutes, that’s a pretty good indication we are dealing with a computer-controlled device (a bot).” He also said the company does not use the information it collects to serve up ads to non-Facebook users.

 

Photo from AFP/Getty Images

 

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