back to article Facebook crushes Belgian attempt to ban tracking of non-users

The Belgium Privacy Commission has lost its effort to force Facebook to stop tracking non-users of the website when an appeals court ruled it was outside its jurisdiction. Back in November, the social network was ordered by a Belgian court to kill tracking cookies within 48 hours for people not signed up to – or logged into – …

  1. Mage Silver badge



    If only Irish regulators had any backbone!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "If only Irish regulators had any backbone!"

      50% Cowardice... 50% the Irish Govt is complicit in all of this...

      Jobs for the lads etc.... Don't expect the Dail to rock the boat!

      The Irish DPC sits out in the countryside above a Spar / Centra...

      About as far as away from the real action as the Govt can set it!

  2. Pseu Donyme

    re: jurisdiction

    It seems strange that a Belgian court would not have jurisdiction of what physically happens in Belgium: if the user / browser / computer (or other device) is in Belgium the hard disk (flash chip, ...) on which the cookie is written is also in Belgium.

    1. Dazed and Confused

      Re: re: jurisdiction

      If this argument hold then the French courts can't claim jurisdiction over what says.

      Hmm this is going to get interesting

      Where's the pop corn

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: re: jurisdiction

        There's a difference between the data that a website displays (on your computer, in your country), what it stores (as cookies, also on your computer and in your country), and what it processes and stores itself (on its servers, in some completely different country).

        I can imagine the jurisdictional arguments getting quite involved.

    2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      re: jurisdiction

      Welcome to the Brave New World. Where we (supposedly) have no local data, our local laws do not apply, and local courts can do diddly squat about it. Add TTIP to the mix and it gets really peculiar.

      Today it's about Facebook, but same issues of trust are inherent for all cloudy services.

    3. Evil Auditor

      Re: re: jurisdiction

      ...strange that a Belgian court would not have jurisdiction of what physically happens in Belgium

      Indeed, and it's a tricky one; likely not going to be solved any time soon. Think of it this way: you set up a website that is adhering to all regulations in the country where the website is hosted. Along comes another country ruling that the cookies your website writes is unlawful. Why should this be any of your business? After all, all you do is running a perfectly legal website. This seems the reasoning behind the appeal court's decision. (By the way, anyone or lazy journo knows which court of appeal that was?)

      But, I assume that FarceBook is actually doing business in Belgium. For example, presumably, with local ads? And that, one might think, should nullify the "outside Belgian jurisdiction" argument.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Facebook doing business in Belgium is key

        Or should be. If I set up a random website that has a forum section here in the US, and someone in the UK, someone in Belgium, and someone in China decide to access it, I shouldn't be held to their country's laws. After all, I just put up a website, and I'm not doing anything to restrict who can access it. Not like Belgium could do anything to me either, other than I suppose block me from visiting their country if they were upset enough about the situation.

        Now if Facebook has some sort of operation to sell ads targeted at people in Belgium then I don't think they should be able to escape Belgian law just because the servers and data are elsewhere. Otherwise a company could avoid being covered by anyone's laws by insuring the servers for a particular country's users were always in a different country! If on the other hand there is no way to purchase ads targeted at those in Belgium, just like there is probably not a way to purchase ads targeted at Antarctica (to sell bikinis and suntan lotion to those accessing it from McMurdo) then I don't think Belgium has much ground to stand on here.

        1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          Re: Facebook doing business in Belgium is key

          'Flag of convenience' registration has been common since the 1920s. It may be immoral, but that's not going to stop commercial organisations. Profit > morality.

      2. Sir Lancelot

        Re: re: jurisdiction

        It was the Brussels Court of Appeal. Oh the joys of a Napoleonic law system in the 21st century!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: re: jurisdiction

          Well our legal system wasn't founded any later so what are you trying to say?

          Just because we do things differently doesn't make us right. In fact looking at the US system it seems there's a lot to be said for the Napoleonic code.

        2. Evil Auditor

          Re: re: jurisdiction

          Thanks, Sir Lancelot

          (As a side note, I'd prefer the civil law system to the common law one)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: re: jurisdiction

      It seems strange that a Belgian court would not have jurisdiction of what physically happens in Belgium

      The biggest problem I see is that it allows jurisdiction shopping: you just pick a jurisdiction that is desperate for your money and so shuts their eyes for all the law breaking you do (and yes, by that I mean the impression I have of the Irish Data Protection people) and away you go. For all of the EU.


      Here is a fun issue: the UK post Brexit could be in a position to ignore the dictats of Europe, including the ones on privacy. Sadly, given the trend we've seen in UK politics with Teresa May, I reckon that will result in fewer restrictions on privacy invasion, not more. It's a bit soon to have any idea which way this will go, but it's one of the many, many issues that the Brexit creates.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Browsers (or at least firefox) should start shipping with 3rd party cookies turned off (normal users never change defaults).

    There's zero benefit to the user from being tracked across domains.

  4. hellwig

    So wait...

    In order to protect the security of its website, Facebook must use cookies, even if someone is not logged in to their service.

    Can someone explain this to me, because I'm thinking it's total B.S.

    Anyone who is a threat to their service probably knows to clear their history, use private browsers, TOR, etc...

    1. Sebastian A

      Re: So wait...

      Of course it's BS. But a 75+ year old judge won't know that and the amicus brief will come from someone who's pretending to be neutral but in reality is so deep in Facebook's pockets that they can smell Zuck's ball sweat.

      1. sgp

        Re: So wait...

        That's not what the article says. The judge only stated that he is not qualified to rule on the matter and that the Irish court is. If only there was some sort of supranational body to punish these privacy invaders...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Translation: Bend Over... "bringing our services back online"

    Zuk is alienating half the net, Google is alienating the other 50%. The US doesn't give a fuck what anyone else thinks, no self-awareness about why this issue is important.

    Recalling the Tim-Berners-Lee article: WWW is spy net....Inventor of the World Wide Web, warned that the internet has become the "world's largest surveillance network."

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Translation: Bend Over... "bringing our services back online"

      The US doesn't give a fuck what anyone else thinks,

      In all fairness, that should read: "The US government doesn't give a fuck what anyone else thinks, " simple because as we all know (especially those of us who live in the States), the corporates and their lobbyists own the government. We, the people, may give a fuck, but that's about all we can do at this point short of bulldozing them (corporates and government) in the ground and starting over.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RIP Privacy!

    "The Brussels appeals court also threw out the Belgian Privacy Commission's claim that the case was urgent and required expedited procedure."

    That last little bit says it all... The always unaccountable faceless judicial system has already been pwned by powerful US Corporations, even before the TTIP is signed!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We need an Eirexit

    That would royally fuck them, wouldn't it!

    Every single Ad-Slinging US corporation would then be exposed!

  8. gerdesj Silver badge

    "and, bizarrely, that because the Belgian court order used the English words "cookie," "server," "home" and "browser" rather than Dutch equivalents, its decision should be annulled."

    As I wrote in the previous article on this: Cookie ******* IS ******* a Dutch word. In English it is a borrow word with Anglicized speling. From memory "kookje" is the original - which translates to "small cake" I believe.

    IANAL (Lexicographer) let alone an etymologist but forming legal arguments based on the putative language of a document has to be the worst example of skating on a thin metaphor. Frankly (wonder where that word came from) calling any set of words English, Dutch, French or whatever in a legal sense should be killed with fire. How on earth can you attempt to make a watertight legal case on such flimsy definitions? Do pidgins and patois count?

    If there is anyone here who knows better, where do "server", "home" and "browser" hail from? I'll make a guess that home is Scandinavian in origin and browser and server are convoluted!

    1. Jos V


      Gerdesh, very close:

      browser (n.)

      1845, "animal which browses," agent noun from browse (v.). In the computer sense by 1982.

      The first browser was invented at PARC by Larry Tesler, now a designer at Apple Computer. Tesler's first Smalltalk browser was a tree-structured device. It enabled programmers to hunt quickly for items in a Smalltalk dictionary. ["InfoWorld" magazine, vol. v., no. 4, Jan. 24, 1983]

      server (n.)

      late 14c., agent noun from serve (v.). Computer sense by 1992.

      home (n.)

      Old English ham "dwelling place, house, abode, fixed residence; estate; village; region, country," from Proto-Germanic *haimaz "home" (source also of Old Frisian hem "home, village," Old Norse heimr "residence, world," heima "home," Danish hjem, Middle Dutch heem, German heim "home," Gothic haims "village"), from PIE *(t)koimo-, suffixed form of root *tkei- "to settle, dwell, be home" (source also of Sanskrit kseti "abides, dwells," Armenian shen "inhabited," Greek kome, Lithuanian kaimas "village;" Old Church Slavonic semija "domestic servants"). As an adjective from 1550s. The old Germanic sense of "village" is preserved in place names and in hamlet.

      cookie (n.)

      1703, American English, from Dutch koekje "little cake," diminutive of koek "cake," from Middle Dutch koke (see cake (n.)).

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      I think "serve" probably comes to English either directly from Latin or through French. Online dictionaries mention "servo" as a Latin root and Modern French has "servir". Both are obvious cognates.

      The same online sources suggest that "browse" is Germanic (the roots apparently something like "brout" and our "sprout" may have come the same way). With this being a linguistic discussion, Germanic may actually mean Scandanavian once you start to consider the route by which it passed into English.

      Bootnote: the Normans were Vikings, so one could mischievously claim that pretty much all of English came into the language via Scandanavians. :)

    3. emess

      ... where do "server", "home" and "browser" hail from?

      server (n.) late 14c., agent noun from serve (v.). Computer sense by 1992.

      home (n.) Old English ham "dwelling place, house, abode, fixed residence; estate; village; region, country," from Proto-Germanic *haimaz "home" (source also of Old Frisian hem "home, village," ...

      browser (n.) 1845, "animal which browses," agent noun from browse (v.). In the computer sense by 1982.

      And more at

  9. joed

    an experiment

    Has anyone tried to manipulate/set fake and not unique fb cookie just to feed big data with crap? This would be fun and useful add-on.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook is becoming a farce

    Never been to the site. Never wanted to. Facebook is blocked at my router like Twitter etc.

    You and what you do is being mined and sold to the Ad slingers.

    I find it puzzling that people would voluntarilty let the Ad Slingers target them.

    I am proud to be one of those who eschew all (anti-)social media sites and brands.

    Just say No to FB and their ilk.

    1. Sil

      Re: Facebook is becoming a farce

      Unfortunately, I must use it from time to time as it has been adopted in my extended family and by many friends as the information sharing method.

      I use it as little as possible, e.g. very rarely. I'm looking forward to the day a new social network that respects privacy doesn't do advertising and get paid with an affordable-by-most subscription crushes FB. Not holding my breath though.

  11. Dan 55 Silver badge

    You know what they're going to argue in Ireland...

    Your data is not in this data centre, please go to California.

  12. Sil


    Such a retarded argument. It may not have juridiction on Facebook's perverted ways outside Belgium, but it sure has a say over what's happening in Belgium.

    If an American company with headquarters in Dublin kills Belgians with poisoned cookies, would the court declare itself incompetent ?

    To think Facebook just launched a huge PR campaign publicized by thousands of blogs and media organisations affirming it has 'Values' and no, its feed ranking isn't evil.

  13. John 104

    I think you are all missing the point. Legal jurisdiction aside, the real issue is tracking of non users through the service. I'm not a FB user, but anyone who is and knows me has now shared my information without my consent. Its such bullshit and it pisses me off to no end that I can't do anything about it.

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      "it pisses me off to no end that I can't do anything about it."

      Nor can anyone else, including courts. Because of jurisdictional issues. See, there was a point after all.

      Correction: an individual can still do a thing or two, like refusing FB cookies or blocking FB at the firewall. But these options are not so easily available to legal entities, because they'd face legal challenges from both FB and its desperate users.

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