Facebook fights for the right to follow users–and nonusers–around the web

By Melissa Locker

Facebook is hunkering down for a fight over its burning desire to follow users–and nonusers–around the web.

The social network is heading to court in Belgium on Wednesday, Bloomberg reports. Its goal is to fight a court order that would force it to stop using cookies and other tracking technology to follow its users as they navigate around the internet to serve them ads–at least until Facebook explains exactly how and why it collects data and what it does with the information. The original court order required the social media giant to stop tracking users, delete all data it had gathered illegally on Belgian citizens–including people who were not Facebook users themselves–or face fines of up to €250,000 ($281,625) a day.

It may be a tough slog, as Facebook’s tracking technology is applied not only to people who willingly signed up for the site, but also to millions of people who aren’t signed up or have closed their accounts. Belgium’s court order, meanwhile, may be bolstered by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which allows penalties as large as 4% of a company’s annual revenue.

Facebook argues that its use of cookies and tracking as users hit the “like” or “share” button and move to third-party websites is within industry standards, and the company gives users the ability to opt out of data collection on other sites–although Belgium may disagree with that statement.

We reached out to Facebook for comment and a spokesperson sent this statement:

“We are committed to protecting people’s privacy. We understand that people want more information and control over the data Facebook receives from other websites and apps that use our services. That’s why we are developing Clear History, that will let you to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, disconnect this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward. We have also made a number of changes to help people understand how our tools work and explain the choices they have, including through our GDPR privacy updates.” 

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