Facebook locks down Belgian site following tracking lawsuit

To comply with the privacy watchdog's demands, only logged-in users can view pages.

It's not altogether surprising that a website some use to scrapbook their entire lives be regularly held to account over its privacy policies. Facebook's ongoing legal predicament in Belgium isn't concerned with how it treats users, though, but how it tracks any visitor to its pages, logged-in or not. After the country's privacy watchdog concluded Facebook was violating European Union law by tracking non-users through persistent cookies without their consent, the social network found itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit. A Belgian court demanded Facebook stop the practice, and pre-empting the order coming through this week, the website has gone into lockdown. So for now, only visitors from Belgium that are logged-in to the platform can view Facebook pages.

As the BBC reports, Facebook intends to contest the ruling, but will comply with the order for the time being (the threat of hefty fines no doubt twisting its arm). By shutting visitors out of Facebook, they will no longer be darted with trackers, and "existing cookies for such individuals will be deleted where possible." As you'd expect, the social network doesn't quite agree with the claim it "tramples on European and Belgian privacy laws," and argues these cookies are essential to keeping its service secure. It's likely Facebook and Belgium's Privacy Commission will arrive at some kind of compromise that opens the platform's doors to visitors once again. As the case brought against the social network cites European law, however, there's always the chance that what's playing out in Belgium could have an impact right across the continent.