Facebook will block Belgians without accounts from access to its content

The restriction will be an offshoot of its meeting a local order to stop tracking people without accounts

Facebook has outlined its plans to follow a court ruling in Belgium requiring it not to track people who do not have accounts on the social networking website.

The company said it was giving the details ahead of the order being served on it by the Belgian Privacy Commission, which is expected later this week.

Among the steps Facebook plans to take is to require people without Facebook accounts in Belgium to create accounts and log in to the social networking website before they can see its publicly available pages and other content, the company said.

"Today, anyone can see Facebook pages for small businesses, sports teams, celebrities and tourist attractions without logging into Facebook—typically found using a search engine," a Facebook spokesman said in an email.

A court in Belgium last month passed an interim order asking the company to stop tracking users that do not have accounts on the social networking website, or risk fines.

The dispute largely hinges around Facebook's use of a special cookie called 'datr' that it claims helps it distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate visits to its website, and identifies browsers and not individuals. Facebook claims that by using the security cookie it protected Belgian people from more than 33,000 takeover attempts in the past month.

But technical experts assisting the Belgian Privacy Commission found that when a user not signed on to Facebook visited the website, the datr cookie was set with a two-year lifetime. When they thereafter visited a Web page on gayworld.be, a website that includes a Facebook social plug-in, the inspection of the network traffic revealed that the datr cookie was sent to the facebook.com domain in the cookie header of the HTTP requests, according to the experts.

In a letter on Tuesday to the Belgian Privacy Commission, Facebook said that while it plans to appeal the court's ruling, it will comply with the order in the meantime. The company said it would cease setting datr cookies for non-registered users in Belgium, and delete existing datr cookies for such users to the extent it is technically feasible.

The removal of the datr cookies will, however, have implications on the services Facebook offers unregistered users in Belgium, because of the security role it claims the cookies play. "Since the datr cookie provides protections against content scraping and application-level denial of service attacks, we will only be able to offer access to content to people in Belgium with Facebook accounts," the Facebook spokesman said.

Registered Facebook users in Belgium that attempt to login to their account from an unrecognized Web browser may also need to complete additional security steps, such as entering a security code or identifying their friends in a photo.

Facebook claims the controls related to datr have been evaluated and validated many times by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.  The company claims that it has only one establishment in the European Union in Ireland, and Irish national data protection law can be applied to all its European users, according to records.  But the Belgian Privacy Commission asserted jurisdiction because, among other reasons, the local processor Facebook Belgium was a permanent establishment in Belgian territory being run by Facebook in the U.S.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?