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Paul Merrell

Belgium sues Belgium over illegal Privacy Violations of Users and Non-Users | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • The Belgian government will be suing Facebook. The Commission for the Protection of Privacy states that Facebook violates Belgian and EU law by tracking systems that target both Facebook users as well as non-Facebook users. Facebook is known for cooperating with the U.S.’ National Security Agency. 
  • The Belgian privacy watchdog’s case against the internet giant Facebook will be heard at a court in Brussels on Thursday. The Commission has repeatedly requested that Facebook should comply with Belgian and EU law. Facebook failed to comply, and the Commission has no power to enforce the law; hence the decision to sue Facebook to attain a a court ruling. The President of the Commission for the Protection of Privacy, Willem Debeuckelaere, told the press that: “Facebook treats its users’ private lives without respect and that needs tackling. It’s not because we want to start a lawsuit over this, but we cannot continue to negotiate through other means. .. We want a judge to impose our recommendations. These recommendations are chiefly aimed at protecting internet users who are not Facebook members.”
  • The Belgian privacy watchdog alleges that Facebook tracks the web browsing of all visitors, including those who have specifically turned the tracking function off; This gathering of private information allegedly also includes those who do not have a Facebook account. Moreover, the Commission claims that Facebook has the capability to surveil computers without consent, even when users are logged out; and Facebook can monitor every PC of users that use websites with Facebook plugins. The capability to monitor both Facebook users and non-Facebook users allegedly functions via Cookies that store information about user’s internet activities, including preferential settings of websites and which websites internet users have visited. The Commission claims that Facebook installs these Cookies on all computers that visit websites that for example have a Facebook plugin to share internet content. That includes the computers of persons who do not make use of Facebook’s “share” or “like” button.
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  • In other words, Facebook has the capacity to monitor your browser settings as well as which websites you have visited if you have read this article or any other article on any website that contains a Facebook “share” button, whether you “like” it or not. The Commissions lawsuit against Facebook is or particular importance due to the fact that the corporation is known for its cooperation with the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). While the lawsuit is of particular interest for Belgian and EU citizens, it also sheds light on Facebook’s monitoring of U.S. citizens.
Paul Merrell

As Belgium threatens fines, Belgium's defence of tracking visitors rings hollow | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • Facebook has been ordered by a Belgian court to stop tracking non-Facebook users when they visit the Facebook site. Facebook has been given 48 hours to stop the tracking or face possible fines of up to 250,000 Euro a day.
  • Facebook has said that it will appeal the ruling, claiming that since their european headquarters are situated in Ireland, they should only be bound by the Irish Data Protection Regulator. Facebook’s chief of security Alex Stamos has posted an explanation about why non-Facebook users are tracked when they visit the site. The tracking issue centres around the creation of a “cookie” called “datr” whenever anyone visits a Facebook page. This cookie contains an identification number that identifies the same browser returning each time to different Facebook pages. Once created, the cookie will last 2 years unless the user explicitly deletes it. The cookie is created for all visitors to Facebook, irrespective of whether they are a Facebook user or even whether they are logged into Facebook at the time. According to Stamos, the measure is needed to: Prevent the creation of fake and spammy accounts Reduce the risk of someone’s account being taken over by someone else Protect people’s content from being stolen Stopping denial of service attacks against Facebook
  • The principle behind this is that if you can identify requests that arrive at the site for whatever reason, abnormal patterns may unmask people creating fake accounts, hijacking a real account or just issuing so many requests that it overwhelms the site. Stamos’ defence of tracking users is that they have been using it for the past 5 years and nobody had complained until now, that it was common practice and that there was little harm because the data was not collected for any purpose other than security. The dilemma raised by Facebook’s actions is a common one in the conflicting spheres of maintaining privacy and maintaining security. It is obvious that if you can identify all visitors to a site, then it is possible to determine more information about what they are doing than if they were anonymous. The problem with this from a moral perspective is that everyone is being tagged, irrespective of whether their intent was going to be malicious or not. It is essentially compromising the privacy of the vast majority for the sake of a much smaller likelihood of bad behaviour.
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    I checked and sure enough: five Facebook cookies even though I have no Facebook account. They're gone now, and I've created an exception blocking Facebook from planting more cookies on my systems. 
Paul Merrell

Belgian court finds Facebook guilty of breaching privacy laws - nsnbc international | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • A court in the Belgian capital Brussels, on Friday, found the social media company Facebook guilty of breaching Belgian privacy laws. Facebook’s Privacy Commission had taken Facebook to court and the judge agreed with the Commission’s view that Facebook had flouted the country’s privacy legislation. The company has been ordered to correct its practice right away of face fines. Facebook has lodged an appeal.
  • Facebook follows its users activities by means of so-called social plug-ins, cookies, and pixels. These digital technologies enable Facebook to follow users’ behavior when online. Cookies, for example, are small files that are attached to your internet browser when you go online and visit a particular site. They are used to collect information about the kind of things you like to read or look at while surfing the web. Facebook uses the data both for its own ends, but also to help advertisers send tailor made advertising. In so doing Facebook also uses certain cookies to follow people that don’t even have a Facebook profile. The court ruled that it is “unclear what information Facebook is collecting about us” and “what it uses the information for”. Moreover, Facebook has not been given permission to keep tabs on internet-users by a court of law.
  • he court has ordered Facebook to stop the practice straight away and to delete any data that it has obtained by means contrary to Belgian privacy legislation. If Facebook fails to comply it will face a penalty payment of 250,000 euro/day.
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  • Facebook, for its part, has said that it is to appeal against the verdict.
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