A court in Belgium has instructed Facebook to put a halt to tracking users without obtaining the proper consents.

The social network has also been told to erase all information it has gathered on individuals who do not have Facebook accounts, after the Brussels Court of First Instance deemed that the company had harvested data illegally.

The claim was originally made last year in February, with the court accusing Facebook of not giving adequate details to users regarding how and why the firm collects data on web browsing habits, and what is done with that data.

Belgium’s privacy regulator claims that Facebook “still violates the fundamental rights of residents” in the country and that privacy laws had been broken due to cookies being run on third-party websites.

Mark Zuckerberg’s firm has said it intends to appeal against the ruling, but failure to comply may leave the company open to penalties of €250,000 (£221,000, $311,000) per day.

On Wednesday, an emailed statement from the Belgian regulator said:

“Facebook uses information to profile your surfing behaviour and uses that profile to show you targeted advertising, such as advertising about products and services from commercial companies, messages from political parties, etc.”

The court said that Facebook must “stop following and recording internet use by people surfing in Belgium, until it complies with Belgian privacy laws.

“Facebook must also destroy all personal data obtained illegally,” it added.

The dispute arises in the wake of a series of arguments between Facebook and the Belgian commission for the protection of privacy (CPP).

The CPP issued warnings to the social network four years ago, accusing Facebook of tracking individual computer users when they hit certain pages, “liked” or “shared” material, even if those users were not account holders.

An original ruling in favour of the Belgian regulator was overturned in 2016, two years later. In the present case, however, the Brussels Court of First Instance is siding with the case of the CPP.

Facebook’s VP of public policy in Europe, Richard Allan, expressed his firm’s disapproval of the verdict, stating:

“The cookies and pixels we use are industry standard technologies, and enable hundreds of thousands of businesses to grow their businesses and reach customers across the EU.”

In a further statement, Facebook said:

“[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,” it added.

“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 privacy updates,” it continued.


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