Brussels, Belgium – Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) must eliminate the tracking cookie within 48 hours or they will be forced to pay a daily fine of €250,000 ($269,000), as told on Monday by Brussel’s local media. The so-called “Datr” cookie gathers data of both Facebook users and non-users that browse in the Internet, even when they are not connected to the website.

The Belgian Privacy Commission had accused Facebook in June, arguing that the social media company was collecting personal data from people who visited the website in their browsers. The privacy regulator said that, according to EU privacy law, users should be asked for consent or at least informed about the purpose of data use.

Belgium is calling for the social network to stop tracking its citizens without their consent. Credit: Shutterstock

“The judge ruled that this is personal data, which Facebook can only use if the internet user expressly gives their consent, as Belgian privacy law dictates”, it said in a statement.

In addition, the court claimed that the cookie or Internet record is left on the computers regardless of whether users are signed up to the site or not. The use of “like” and “share” buttons on external websites also allows Facebook to track Internet users.

On the other hand, Facebook affirmed that the tracking cookie is programmed only to identify browsers, not people. They added that what they seek by using it is to protect users from spam, malware and other cyber-attacks, since the “Datr” cookie allows Facebook to distinguish browsers being piloted by machines from those directed by humans. Besides, it removes data browsing after 10 days.

“We’ve used the ‘datr’ cookie for more than five years to keep Facebook secure for 1.5 billion people around the world. We will appeal this decision and are working to minimize any disruption to people’s access to Facebook in Belgium,” a Facebook spokeswoman said.

Zuckerberg’s firm has been fighting against several privacy investigations in Europe, remarking that regulators are making a fuss out of the situation and that such orders could weaken the social network’s ability to protect users from fraud and hacking.

Generally, cookies consist of simple files that track several activities like how long users stayed on a website, what they clicked and the preferences they selected. The cookies also facilitate keeping a record of whether a user has visited a website before and then notify the site itself.

Source: The Wall Street Journal