Facebook Can Stop Blocking Non-Members in Belgium


Facebook has won its Belgian court appeal over storing non-user data.

The ruling comes a year after Belgium sued the social network for breaching European privacy laws. This week, the Brussels Appeals Court dismissed the case, according to Reuters, on the grounds that it has no jurisdiction over Facebook, which houses its European headquarters in Ireland.

"Belgian courts don't have international jurisdiction over Facebook Ireland, where the data concerning Europe is processed," the Brussels court of appeal said in a Wednesday ruling, as published by Bloomberg.

Facebook maintains that only the Irish Data Protection Commissioner has purview over its European headquarters.

In April 2015, Facebook admitted to secretly tracking non-members who visited third-party sites with an embedded "Like" button. It wasn't a conscious move, according to the company, which blamed a "bug" that was quickly fixed. The Belgian Privacy Commission, however, didn't buy the story, and later presented its concerns and recommendations to Facebook, asking the site to be more transparent.

Facebook in December appealed, but agreed to require logins in the meantime, rather than removing tracking cookies altogether. Public content, including profiles of local businesses, were blocked to anyone without an account. For the rest of the world, pages marked public are accessible simply by traveling to their URL; no log-in required.

This win, however, means Facebook can start showing its pages to non-members Belgians again.

"We are pleased with the court's decision and look forward to bringing all our services back online for people in Belgium," the service told Bloomberg.

Neither the Belgian Privacy Commission nor Facebook immediately responded to PCMag's request for comment.

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