Facebook's EU Cookie Controversy

MaddiRuhl - January 12, 2016 - 11:29 AM

Facebook's EU Cookie Controversy

The social networking giant is under fire in the EU for violating privacy with a data-collecting cookie.

In late 2015, Facebook found itself in a legal scuffle with Belgium over a cookie called "datr". This cookie is updated or downloaded each time a user visits Facebook, and is allegedly necessary for security. However, in November, Belgium ruled that the nature of this cookie and its capacity to track users—even those without Facebook accounts—violated privacy regulations and informed consent. The ruling ordered Facebook to therefore block non-registered users in Belgium (until, of course, they decided to register an account). Now, the EU is considering whether or not Facebook "Like" buttons should be allowed on sites such as those for government and health services for the same reasons.

Facebook has a long history of privacy issues with the EU, particularly over regulations involving informed consent. Whether or not all of Facebook's tracking activities are fully necessary to achieve their purported ends (such as security, for example) is always under scrutiny. The case of the datr cookie is a good example; Facebook claims that it is a necessary protection against data breaches, but the EU is increasingly skeptical that the associated tracking is not excessive. Whether or not the EU makes any regulatory changes involving the "Like" button on health or government sites, or if Belgium's ruling spurs a cascade of similar decisions, remains to be seen as European courts grapple with Facebook's role within existing regulations.

Photo: © iStock.
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