CookieLaw Blog December 3, 2015

Facebook Concedes to Cookie Ruling

Facebook will be making changes for Belgian visitors in response to a ruling by the country’s Data Protection Commissioner, the company announced yesterday.

Threatened with the prospect of daily fines of 250,000 Euros, the social media giant will make changes that will restrict the availability of certain content to logged in users only.  It has however said it will contest the decision that lies behind the need for the change.

The ruling made by the Data Protection Commissioner was that Facebook’s use of a particular cookie, called ‘datr’, contravenes Belgian law when it is set on certain pages which were viewed by non-members of the social network.

As such individuals had not agreed to Facebook’s terms and conditions, the automatic setting of the cookie was deemed to be against Belgian law, because it was done without the consent of the individual.

Currently while a login is required to view most Facebook content, it is possible for non-account holders to see some pages, particularly ones set up by companies as part of their marketing efforts.

Facebook has decided that rather than make changes so that the datr cookie is not set for such visitors, it will now require visitors to such pages to be account holders, who have therefore given their consent to the cookie.

It is an interesting move, which may upset those companies whose pages are likely to get fewer views as a result of this change.

At the moment the change seems likely to be restricted to Belgium, but it is possible that other EU countries may contest similar uses of cookies by Facebook, under their own cookie rules.  If that happens it may require a further rethink of the strategy.

What this also demonstrates is the growing importance for all companies to make sure they get valid consent for the use of cookies.  Not doing so could prove a costly decision.

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