back to article Facebook told to stop stalking Belgians or face fines of €250k – a day

Facebook has been told to stop tracking Belgian citizens' online habits, and to delete all the data it holds on them, or it could be fined up to €100m. The Brussels Court of First Instance today ruled that Facebook doesn't provide users with enough information on what data it gathers on people's web use or how long that data …

  1. vir

    "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

    -Dr. Ian Malcom

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Facebook's shadow database of info on you.

      Facebook are free to do what they like with your shadow database though, as none of that information was actually posted by you, but by your 'friends', about you, there is a subtle difference.

      If enough of your friends say the same, it's probably a more accurate representation of you, too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Facebook's shadow database of info on you.

        That's why I have no friends.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Facebook's shadow database of info on you.

        It is irrelevant, whether the information is generated by you, by Facebook in the background or by your friends. It is personally identifiable information and that is protected by law.

        The case is also about the infromation collected by Facebook when you are NOT on Facebook, but visiting other sites. Using the social tracking tools, like the "Like" button, third party cookies etc. they can follow you across the Internet (well, the large part of the Internet that surrepticiously embeds Facebook images, scripts and cookies in their sites), whether you are a Facebook member or not.

        This information can be either tracked back to your account, if you have logged on to Facebook on that browser, or they can trace it back to your IP address - under EU law, that is personally identifiable information. This is amount of tracking is illegal under EU law without the identified persons permission - and as a non-Facebook member can never have given their permission to Facebook to track them across the net and therefore Facebook is breaking the law by collecting, analysing and (possibly) selling this information on to third parties.

        As to your friends publishing information over you, that is also covered under EU law, they cannot publicly post photos of you, for example, without first getting your explicit permission to do so. When my wife goes to a party and people are making photos, she explicitly says that no photos with her in them can be posted online! That is her right and everybody at the party has to respect that or they could face legal action.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Facebook's shadow database of info on you.

          And just to add, in Germany it is recommended that you use the Shariff tools, from heise.de, to block social media content on your site, until the visitor explicitly turns it on.

          It displays greyed out versions of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Xing etc. logos, with a slider next to them. The visitor can then decide whether to switch on each service individually, or leave them disabled. First when the visitor has conciously decided that they want to be tracked by one of these services are the official images, scripts and third party cookies loaded / allowed.

          (German link https://www.heise.de/ct/ausgabe/2014-26-Social-Media-Buttons-datenschutzkonform-nutzen-2463330.html)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Facebook's shadow database of info on you.

          How do we know the shadow database contains personally identifiable information or is even linked to personally identifiable information posted by the Individual being shadowed? Bottom line, we don't.

          That's a very subjective issue when gathering data from what friends or others have posted about individual X.

          We know it (the shadow database) might contain a DOB generated by a friend saying Happy 30th on a particular day.

          We know their real name might be John, when someone says 'Hey John, I'll see you at the usual time, 8pm on Monday at X location".

          So we know it might contain regular location throughout the week/year if the indivdual has regular meetings which are openly discussed by others, expecting to meet Individual X, but if you only store data in a shadow database in relation to what someone has said about you, is it personally identifiable data of Individual X?

          Or is that data which is technically identical to Individual X, but isn't data posted by Individual X? i.e. there is no confirmed link, and if you don't make one, Facebook could argue the point it's not personally identifiable information.

          In life, you can't stop someone talking about you, or discussing you with someone else.

          We don't treat other people's discussions of us, as a Privacy issue. Unless it's information is gathered in confidence from you (but even that is still OK, for Doctor/Lawyer etc in a professional capacity to discuss a case).

          So is it a Privacy issue if it is information gathered by so called friends about you?

          I don't think that's been answered, that was the point I was trying to make.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Facebook's shadow database of info on you.

            Again, it has nothing to do with friends.

            It is the data FACEBOOK collects about people when THEY ARE NOT AT FACEBOOk.COM. It is the information they collect when you visit a newspaper website, online shop, portals, web presences for businesses, other people's blogs etc. These sites have embedded Facebook (and other social media) Like buttons, tracking scripts and cookies.

            This collects a lot of information about people, includng people who are NOT Facebook members. They have at least the browser fingerprint or IP address of the visitor, plus the visit information, which pages on those sites they visited, possibly how long they were on those pages etc.

            The browser fingerprint and IP address are enough to be classed as "personally identifiable information" under EU law. Facebook (and other companies) cannot collect this information without the visitor's permission. That is the problem here, non-Facebook members have never signed up to Facebooks terms and conditions and therefore Facebook is breaking the law if they collect this information, when these non-members visit external websites.

            Members should also be able to opt out of this tracking, but they cannot.

            Theoretically, this also applies to advertising companies that track across different sites, I could see this being expanded to cover them, once this one has been cleared up and a precident set.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Facebook's shadow database of info on you.

            "I don't think that's been answered"

            It's been answered by a couple of courts within a week.

      3. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Facebook's shadow database of info on you.

        "Facebook are free to do what they like with your shadow database though, as none of that information was actually posted by you, but by your 'friends', about you, there is a subtle difference."

        Correct. The difference is that it's illegal for them to gather information on you if you're not a registered user of Facebook:

        "The company has been told to delete all the data it had gathered on people who did not use Facebook. The court ruled the data was gathered illegally."

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-43091087

  2. Hans 1
    Coat

    Belgie, kunt u niet ook Microsoft gewoon verklagen wegen de Windows 10 upgrade fiasco ? Alvast bedankt!

    Belgique, tant que vous y êtes, ne pouvez-vous pas vous occuper de Microsoft et de la mis-à-jour forcée vers Windows 10 ? Merci par vanace!

    Belgien, könnt Ihr nicht Microsoft wegen dem Windows 10 Migrationsfiasco anklagen ? Viielen Dank!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    but can you name more than five famous Belgians they are tracking?

    1. Colabroad

      Tintin

      Poirot

      Jean Claude Van Damme

      Mayonnaise on chips

      Brussell Sprouts

      A convenient way around the Maginot Line

      ...and that's my knowledge of Belgium exhausted!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The inventors of SURF ("speeded up robust features") as used by our new robotic overlords.

        The Big Bang theory is also Belgian.

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

          The Big Bang theory is also Belgian.

          But the name is very British!

          (Sir Fred Hoyle FRS)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The Big Bang theory is also Belgian.

            The short name may indeed be very British. It was originally named (In French) "A homogeneous Universe of constant mass and growing radius accounting for the radial velocity of extragalactic nebulae"

      2. Hans 1
        Coat

        @ Colabroad

        How about Axelle Red, Stromae, Guy Verhofstadt and my personal favorite because Farage spent years in Brussels without knowing this guy was PM at the time ... Herman van Rompuy.

        BTW, I am a mere Brit, however, unlike 99.999% of my countrymen, I master 5 languages ....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          BTW, I am a mere Brit, however, unlike 99.999% of my countrymen, I master 5 languages ....

          Python, Basic, Fortran, Java, C?

          It may sound aloof, but why would you need to master 5 languages if you speak English? You may not like that statement but that's the way things are.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            It may sound aloof, but why would you need to master 5 languages if you speak English? You may not like that statement but that's the way things are.

            When you're hungry, finding a food place that speaks English is a lot of stress you don't need. Likewise finding a plumber you can explain the problem with your toilet to.

            Not to mention all the people who keep talking around you in other languages of course.

        2. DrRobert

          Like, 98.67% of readers, I assume that you're simply lying about your language-proficiency.

        3. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          "BTW, I am a mere Brit, however, unlike 99.999% of my countrymen, I master 5 languages"

          Only 658 people in the UK then? Seems to be a very low estimate.

      3. Empire of the Pussycat

        plastic bertrand, he may be dead, but he still counts

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: Plastic Bertrand

          "plastic bertrand, he may be dead, but he still counts"

          He's still performing, but the real scandal is that his first four albums were done in a Milli Vanilli style.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "[...] ...and that's my knowledge of Belgium exhausted!"

        Mmm... chocolates...

        Also beer - and the Manneken Pis.

        1. Joe Werner Silver badge
          Pint

          Don't forget Adolphe Sax!

          (icon) --->

          because 1) some of their stuff it is better than at home[1] and 2) the judges (and all of the Belgians) deserve a generous glass. I'll go and grab a few bottles from my favourite beverage store tomorrow! (yup, some Belgian breweries have litre bottles, not the small 33cl I'm drinking now - though that's a local Doppelbock, private - since 1744 - owned brewery...). I'll also buy my Flemish colleague a beer next time we meet.

          [1] the mean quality in Germany is quite high, but the standard deviation is low - most beer is good - neither excellent nor really bad. In Belgium, the mean might be a bit lower[2], but the standard deviation is really high - some really good beer, and some Gods-awful stuff that should be considered an abomination unto Nuggan.

          [2] I don't have a robust estimate here, due to both sample size and high variance....

      5. Primus Secundus Tertius

        @Colabroad

        I prefer tartare sauce on my chips.

    2. The Nazz

      Don't MUFC have a couple of Belgians "on their books" ?

      Lukaku and that frizzy haired one, tall lanky one?

      Some people actually go as far as to call them footballers.

      Both sold by Everton at exhorbitant prices. So much for caveat emptor ha ha.

      Chelsea also have one, at least, the dangerous one.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not good enough

    Make it €250k/hour and they might sit up and take notice.

    Really, just close them down and get the rest of the EU to follow suit. The levels of addiction and depression (and suicide) will be very much improved if they did.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slightly OT

    I like Jonathan Meades comment on the Brussels Palais de Justice: “a dwarf with a penis enlargement”.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Opt Out?

    "we give people the right to opt-out of having data collected on sites and apps off Facebook being used for ads"

    ...but only if you are a Facebook account holder. If you're not a Facebook account holder, Facebook will attempt to track you anyway and there's nothing(*) you can do about it.

    (* There are countermeasures, but they're crude and not without side effects)

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Opt Out?

      Exactly!

    2. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Opt Out?

      > (* There are countermeasures, but they're crude and not without side effects)

      What do you mean crude and with side effects?

      Script blockers and similar blockers (uMatrix, NoScript, uBlock, Ghostery) have the ability to black social media buttons (so twitter, facebook and others) and anything from their advertising domains.

      The only side effects I get are missing (thankfully) social media buttons and no ads.

      What is crude about these?

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Opt Out?

        NoScript, for example, means you have to enable scripts for each new site you visit. A good thing, in and of itself, but given that most domains nowadays probably pull scripts from anywhere from a dozen to 3 dozen external sources, that can be tiresome - especially if you want to use the commenting features of a site and have to experiment which of the 30 third party domains contains the scripts controlling the comments section...

        I do use NoScript.

        Also, uBlock and Ghostery are stopping the sites you visit from earning a living, so that isn't good either.

    3. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Opt Out?

      Not only that, but to have a FarceBork account you have to accept their T&Cs which remove some of the legal protections you have without accepting them. Thus, creating an account to set your preferences opens you up to them legally doing the stuff you want them to stop doing !

      1. Allan 1

        Re: Opt Out?

        I believe that European law specifically states quite clearly, that a contract cannot and will not revoke your legal protections, and that if a contract tries, the entire contract is void.

        1. Mark 65

          Re: Opt Out?

          Yep, it's the old statutory rights part. I think the Yanks can bargain away any right they have but in the EU a contract cannot override statutory protection.

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "The cookies and pixels we use are industry-standard technologies"

    The old everybody's doing it excuse.

    A few fines on this scale and everybody won't be doing it.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Go

      I'm so looking forward to the GDPR coming in.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So am I until March 2019, then I am f*****d

        1. Hans 1
          Unhappy

          So am I until March 2019, then I am f*****d

          Tu l'es déjà, mon ami!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          If you don't want to Brexit, your best bet is to get a skilled job on the continent ASAP.

          1. big_D Silver badge
            Pint

            @Mycho

            Been there, doing that.

            Meins a German Weizen.

          2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

            My children already have and with 50% of my work being based on the continent, and much more doable remotely I am following.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "So am I until March 2019, then I am f*****d"

          Probably, but for lack of GDPR. It should be incorporated into UK by then as the new DPA.

          1. Adam 52 Silver badge

            There must be someone out there who understands our new DPA, but I haven't met them yet. Even our lawyers are still chasing the seemingly endless references. Enforcing it is going to be a nightmare. A cynic might think that was deliberate.

    2. Tree
      Thumb Down

      Fine, fine away

      Suckerberg does not deserve the fortune he has. Gurgle lied when they were saying "don't be evil", but FaceBUTT pretends they protect your data. They have it all, but don't know where to find it?. I intentially don't want "helpful" and relevant ads, especially if this scum makes money off of it..

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Send Facebook data-pervs / tech-sociopaths a message

    Just close the account. Send the data-pervs / tech-sociopaths a message. After the 10th year of FB undeleting Activity-Log posts, I sure had enough!

    Check this on your own account's Activity-Log, as it takes a few seconds to load past years 'fully', and sometimes you have scroll up and down a few times to coerce it to update. All of this was confirmed from the Max Schrems case too. Realms of extra hidden profile data, photos and posts are never really deleted! What does the Irish DPC have to say? They said 'you have to contact Facebook'! And this FB advice here, its BS too:

    https://hothardware.com/news/think-your-deleted-facebook-posts-are-really-deleted-guess-again

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Send Facebook data-pervs / tech-sociopaths a message

      I'm still inclined to think that the Zuck is just a very well paid NSA agent.

      1. big_D Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Send Facebook data-pervs / tech-sociopaths a message

        @Chris G

        No, it was CIA money that got him started. ;-)

      2. Mark 65

        Re: Send Facebook data-pervs / tech-sociopaths a message

        I'm still inclined to think that the Zuck is just a very well paid NSA agent.

        Things do lend themselves to that suggestion. If you look back in history as to the lengths that the Stasi had to go to to collect information about your thoughts, intentions, circle of friends and what you were up to and compare that to the modern security services just having to tap into Facebook, LinkedIn et al where all information is offered up for free. Don't even bother responding with an "I use multiple accounts with misleading information etc etc to muddy the waters" as you are in such a minority it isn't even funny. Have a look around at the levels of addiction to this shit and you can only be left despairing for the future of humanity.

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: Send Facebook data-pervs / tech-sociopaths a message

          @Mark 65

          Facebook would be Big Brother's idea of a wet dream, you don't need to monitor the population, they TELL you everything, pics included.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Send Facebook data-pervs / tech-sociopaths a message

      But this is what the Belgians are complaining about, Facebook is following all Belgians that ARE NOT MEMBERS of Facebook. These people have not given Facebook their permission to track them, but they are being tracked anyway.

  9. EddieD

    Appeals.

    I know this is highly illiberal of me, but countries should start to consider restricting the rights to appeal for large corporations.

    They have budgets bigger than most countries, and can tie cases like this up in courts for years and years so that the consumers never see justice.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Appeals.

      Just ask them to deposit in advance the fee they'll have to pay if they lose.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Appeals.

        The fine is often held in escrow, but if it isn't a sum that will hurt them, it still won't deter them. Unfortunately the fine is missing a couple of zeroes to make a real impact on Facebook or other large tech robber barons.

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Appeals.

      ... should start to consider restricting the rights to appeal for large corporations

      Ah, the old "people doing stuff we don't like should not have the same rights as us" argument. That's a very bad idea, the start of a slippery slope, the thin end of the wedge [SFX: riffling through a thesaurus], ...

      You either give everyone protection - including those you don't like - or you give no-one protection. Once you start to pick and choose who should have protection/rights, then you start the creep that allows bad things to happen.

      I refer you to pastor Martin Niemöller's poem

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Appeals.

        "Ah, the old "people doing stuff we don't like should not have the same rights as us" argument."

        Companies aren't people. So maybe there needs to be some sort of extra hoops to jump through, like if they keep appealing higher and higher, despite being on a hiding to nothing, the punishment increases?

        1. Mark 65

          Re: Appeals.

          As one poster mentioned - the fine just needs to be larger to cope with the extra wealth of today's corporations. There's only so many times you can appeal when your opponent is the Government vs dragging out civil suits with "normals" and the threat has to be a deterrent. Shareholders tend not to like large amounts of money heading out of the door especially if they are too large to be "the cost of doing business".

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Appeals.

        "That's a very bad idea, the start of a slippery slope, the thin end of the wedge [SFX: riffling through a thesaurus],"

        I think "Bennite" came next.

  10. DCFusor

    The excuse of our time

    Notice how practically everyone - from Wells Fargo to FB, now says "but everyone else is doing it" as if that made it OK?

    Never flew with my parents...that just made them get out a bigger belt to put some sense into me. Too bad there's no real enforcement by the governments who are dependent on these guys...

    It's like when they threatened to break up Microsoft - the obvious answer "We'll just see who is the real government here". Now no one even threatens anymore.

    So, if you're a big bank and money launder billions of drug cartel money and make many millions of profit, and have to pay 10% of that in fines, is that really enforcement?

    I'll believe corps are people when they; hang one in Texas. They're made of people - like soylent green.

  11. werdsmith Silver badge

    u ok hun?

    inbox me pls

    stay strong babe xxxx

    Facebook style.

    What a wankpit.

  12. Bill M

    If it's free then you are the product

    If it's free then you are the product

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: If it's free then you are the product

      The problem is, the people who are complaining are the "product", but they have never used and never had any intention to use Facebook.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: If it's free then you are the product

      These days you're still the product, even if you pay.

  13. Lorribot Silver badge

    Industry Standard, like that is a good thing

    Guns and knives are industry standard devices used by assassins, many drug dealers and other enforcer types, to carry out their business.

    Many industries have standards that are not beneficial to the their customers, Volkswagen (et al) used industry standard programming techniques to falsify emmissions data.

    Soem of the previously industry standards around chemical plants are not particularly healty or benificial.

    Using the term "industry standard" does not mean something is inherantly a good thing if that industry's aim is to screw people over, steal their lives and then sell it back to them or kill them.

    It is the intent to harm or neglect of its customers welfare in order to make money that is the issue that Facebook seems to be missing.

    1. Compression Artifact

      Re: Industry Standard, like that is a good thing

      The one good thing about spyware being done in an industry-standard way is that it makes it easier for crap-blocking browser extensions to recognize it and get rid of it.

  14. Wensleydale Cheese

    Maybe there's hope yet?

    Grauniad article: 'Parents killed it': why Facebook is losing its teenage users

    This year more than 3 million under-25s in the UK and US will either quit Facebook or stop using it regularly, and they are pretty vocal about why.

    “As soon as parents got in they killed it,” says 24-year-old Jordan Ranford, a now minimal Facebook user who ditched his mum as a friend because she was “just jarring”.

    Georgia Davey, 21, predicts a bleak future for the increasingly uncool Facebook. “I don’t know if I should say this, but I think Facebook might shut down one day,” she says. “There will be a new thing soon and no one will be on it any more.”

    With 2 billion registered users it is impossible to see Facebook closing. But her comment highlights an inherent truth of internet life: impermanence. Digital businesses age in dog years, meaning today’s new thing can rapidly become yesterday’s news. Anyone remember MySpace or Second Life?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Maybe there's hope yet?

      Exactly. FBs day will come.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Maybe there's hope yet?

      This is old news, the tech industry has been reporting this trend for at least 5 years.

    3. KBeee Bronze badge

      Re: Maybe there's hope yet?

      Unfortunately later in the article it says that the estimated 3 million under 25 leavers will be more than made up by over 25 year old joiners.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Maybe there's hope yet?

        You can be sure that when it does die, the assets (that database) won't. It will go somewhere even less easy to monitor.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook - Deception For Hire

    A business is ultimately a reflection of its founder. If the business is fundamentally based on deceiving people, then you can expect in time to see it drift towards the 'dark side'.

    For Zuk: 'Connecting-The-World' means selling us out to advertisers... 'Building-Community' means slurping info on every user (non-registered or not), whenever they land on a page with a Facebook 'like' button etc.

    So now we basically have the greatest-propaganda-machine-the world-has-ever-known - 'for hire'. What did Zuk expect? Listen to the way he talks during investors conference calls. Zuk has no soul... He has no ideals / ethics... He's just a puppet for influence peddlers everywhere...

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-17/facebook-twitter-ill-equipped-to-stop-repeat-of-2016-meddling

  17. eldakka Silver badge

    From the article:

    > "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.

    Slavery was industry standard practice for centuries (millenia).

    That didn't make it right.

  18. mrdalliard
    Big Brother

    Peak Facebook

    I hope to see it go the way of MySpace, Bebo, etc... There are indications that user numbers are finally heading south in some countries.

    It will hopefully get legislated/litigated out of existence and that people will recognise it for the true evil that it really is.

    1. DropBear

      Facebook is not the problem

      Commendable sentiment, but if I may ask - in a world where Facebook is only able to exist because countless people see no major problem with what it does, what exactly do you think its eventual demise will accomplish...? It's like saying "and then good will finally defeat evil once and for all". Come now, as long as people willingly flock to this kind of thing there will be a reason to take advantage of them, there will be something else coming along and we all know it...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So tracking is an issue? And you think yourself smart? Maybe, just maybe FarceBorg already took that into account. That's why they developed a business strategy and they bought What'sApp. You know, that incredibly handy thingy that's on all-the-time, which is a huge improvement to this "only-when-you're-surfing" modus. Hell, even official institutions, governments (seen the Love Island @Preston?) are creating their groups. And the opportunities it offers! Video! Sat-nav! Elctronic payment!! Which is of course all end-to-end. To save the customers, and the children. And of course so FuckBotch can own all the data exclusively...

    Ah well... Grumpy old persons, RISE!

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