Facebook said to be violating European law by tracking users

Facebook has been found running afoul of the law in Europe, at least according to researchers commissioned to look into the matter. Last month a draft report pegged the social network as being in violation of European law, and so a further look into the matter concluded that Facebook is tracking all of its users...even if they are opting out of being tracked, or if they have visited a Facebook page but don't have an account with the company.

The Belgian Privacy Commission was the agency to commission the research, and it has since been advised by iMinds-SMIT and ICRI/CIR that "Facebook is acting in violation of European law". The reasons for this are said to be numerous, including placing "too much burden on its users", pointing toward complex settings that require users to hunt and peck for opt-out options.

That snowballs into several more problems, including the social network's "default settings related to behavioural profiling or Social Ads", according to the researchers, as well as lack of adequate information about how, exactly, images could be used for advertising purposes, how avatars could be used, who third-party companies and partners are, and "the precise implications" of Facebook's various data-collecting efforts.

Another large issue is that of tracking, which is said to be happening extensively when it comes to Facebook. The tracking is done in order to target advertisements at visitors/users, and the "Like" button plays are large role. A tracking cookie is placed on a user's computer if they visit a Facebook page; likewise, visiting a third-party webpage that has a "Like" button on it results in tracking cookies being sent back to Facebook regardless of whether the user clicks on the Like button or does anything related to the social network.

With the exception of a couple narrow scenarios, websites like Facebook are required to get prior consent for tracking and placing cookies according to European law, and a notification about the use of cookies. Said one researcher in a statement, "Facebook cannot rely on users' inaction (ie not opting out through a third-party website) to infer consent."

SOURCE: The Guardian