A Belgian court has overturned a ruling that would have forced Facebook to stop tracking non-users who had visited its pages, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. A Brussels appeals court found that the Belgian Privacy Commission, which brought a case against Facebook last year, does not have jurisdiction over the company’s Ireland-based European headquarters. As The Guardian reports, it also rejected a claim that the case was urgent and needed to be expedited.
This reverses a decision made last year, when a court ordered Facebook to stop using cookies to keep tabs on the web browsing of people who were not logged into accounts or had otherwise opted out of tracking. The ruling was based on a report issued in early 2015, saying that Facebook placed what are known as datr cookies on the computer of any user who visited a Facebook page, then tracked every time those same users visited a page that included one of Facebook’s social plugins.
Facebook has disputed the conclusions of that report, saying that the cookies are a way to distinguish spambots from actual users by checking browsing patterns. When the previous ruling was handed down, it announced that it would have to "treat any visit to Facebook from an unrecognized browser in Belgium as potentially malicious," barring anyone who was not logged in from visiting Facebook pages. "We are pleased with the court’s decision and look forward to bringing all our services back online for people in Belgium," a spokesperson said after the recent decision.
The Belgian Privacy Commission, however, said it was "not happy" with the decision. "Today’s decision simply and purely means that Belgian citizens cannot obtain the protection of their private lives through the courts and tribunals when it concerns foreign actors," said a spokesperson.