Facebook is certainly not short of cash, but even they wouldn’t enjoy paying a fine of up to $269,000 a day. However, that’s exactly what the social network is facing this week thanks to a ruling by a Belgian court with regards to tracking users online.
The huge daily fine will be imposed if Facebook does not cease tracking online users within Belgium who do not have a Facebook account. And they need to stop doing that before the end of tomorrow, Wednesday November 11. The ruling is in response to a lawsuit/complaint lodged by Belgium’s privacy watchdog.
So how does this tracking occur? Simply by visiting a Facebook page or attempting to click a Like or Share button on any website that includes the functionality. Regardless of whether you are a user of the social network or not, Facebook creates a cookie (known as the dat cookie at Facebook) that remains on the user’s device for up to two years. That cookie is updated every time a Facebook-enabled page is visited after that and new data is stored on the user on Facebook’s servers.
It’s the fact this is done without user consent that causes the issue. Facebook has said the cookie poses no threat to users and has been in use for over five years. An appeal to the ruling will be lodged, which should at least delay the daily fine, but unless they overturn the court ruling it will force the social network to curb its tracking inside Belgium. Other European countries may then decide to take similar action.