Facebook Fights to Keep Tracking People On and Off the App
Facebook is appealing a court order from Belgium’s data protection authority in court today. Social Media giant, Facebook is challenging a court order which demands that they stop tracking the web surfing activity of people while they are either on or off the app. Last year courts in Belgium ordered Facebook to stop using cookies without the knowledge and consent of the people they are tracking. Fines for violating the order will cost Facebook €250,000 per day, up to €100m maximum, for violations.
Facebook was deemed to be in violation of European privacy laws because of tracking people on third-party websites. Facebook was also ordered to delete all user data it gathered illegally on Belgian citizens. Part of this data includes information about people who are not and never Facebook users.
“Facebook informs us insufficiently about gathering information about us, the kind of data it collects, what it does with that data and how long it stores it,” the court stated. “It also does not gain our consent to collect and store all this information.”
The tech giant was ordered by a Belgian court in 2015 to stop tracking any Belgian citizen who does not have a Facebook account. Facebook appealed the decision questioning the court’s jurisdiction as Facebook European headquarters are in Dublin, Ireland. Facebook is challenging a 2018 court order and the threat of a daily fine.
How Do Internet Cookies Work?
Facebook seems to have been tracking users’ web browsing activities, even after they logged off the app, since 2011. Facebook tracking cookies persist and continue tracking web activity, as a supposed safety measure to prevent others from trying to hack a Facebook account. At that time the data was not made available to advertisers and other third parties.
In 2014, Facebook started tracking and selling user web browsing behavior data to advertisers who then used it to target people with interest-based adverts. If you’ve ever wondered why you are seeing an advertisement in your Facebook newsfeed for something you looked at on another website you just visited, cookies are the reason why.
Does Facebook Track Your Web Browsing?
Website coding works to show the text, images, and videos that appear on a web page. Facebook Tracks you, even when you are not on Facebook. Webpages can and do contain snippets of computer code that track your behavior on a website. This helps the website owner optimize reader experience. Tracking user behavior also helps to determine what content is most interesting to readers. The coding may retrieve page content from the website owner’s server, but it also may request and display content from other servers as well. For example, a web page can show a video that actually resides on YouTube. These requests for content can go out to multiple servers — including Facebook — in addition to the website’s owner. The tracking continues even if a person is not using the app, however.
Many websites use a tracking pixel, another code snippet, known as a Facebook Pixel. Tracking Pixels to record all kinds of activity on a website or app -such as products you’ve clicked on or added to a shopping cart. The tracking pixel uses an image to makes a request for a Facebook Pixel, just as it would request a Like button. Web users do not see the pixel, but the request transmit information about them and what they are looking at on their computer mobile device. No user will ever notice the picture, but the request to get it is packaged with information. Useful data is sent to Facebook whether you click on one of its buttons or not.
Even if you’re not logged into the app or even a Facebook user at all, the company still associates collected personal data with your IP address. A web browser automatically sends the same information to both Facebook and the website owner. Then it can connect all the of websites that you have visited that use the Facebook Pixel.
Michelle writes about cyber security, data privacy focusing on social media privacy as well as how to protect your IoT devices. She has worked in internet technology for over 20 years and owns METRONY, LLC. Michelle earned a B.S. in Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Michelle published a guide to Cyber Security for Business Travelers