Belgian researchers expose Facebook’s illegal use of tracking cookies

A report by Belgian researchers, base at the University of Leuven and a university in Brussels, has accused Facebook of breaching EU privacy laws by using tracking cookies placed on desktop and laptop PCs, tablets and smartphones without obtaining the online users’ permission to track their use of the web.

Facebook has only responded to the accusations in the report by stating that it contains “factual inaccuracies”.

Furthermore, the report accuses Facebook of using tracking cookies in Europe for up to two years even if users have opted out of giving Facebook permission to use them and of placing them on the computers of visitors to the Facebook website who do not have accounts with Facebook.

There are a few exceptions to the EU privacy laws, which stipulate that websites have to be given permission by web users before they can place tracking cookies on their computers and smartphones. If the first time a particular computer or smartphone accesses a website its user refuses to give permission for the use of cookies, the website has to ask for permission to use cookies every subsequent time that device accesses that website. If permission is granted by the user, the cookie(s) placed on the device by the website can be read by it and so permission will not be required for their use, but will be required again if the cookie(s) are deleted.

Facebook, Google and Twitter, which all earn most of their income from advertising, feel the need to get as many clicks or views of their ads as possible and therefore prefer to use their knowledge of the personal information of users to provide personalised ads than to rely on just placing ads that correspond to the content of the webpages visited by users. Those social sites are therefore placing their incomes way ahead of the web users’ right to privacy, a state of affairs that is worsened by the fact that they channel their revenues through tax havens in order to avoid paying the taxes required of them in the countries in which they operate.

Fortunately, all of the major web browsers – Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Mozilla’s Firefox, Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari – have settings that allow the user to delete cookies and visited-website histories and search engine histories manually or automatically.

Here are some relevant webpages related to this topic:

Delete cookies to remove the information websites have stored on your computer [in the Firefox web browser] –…

HTTP cookie –

Facebook tracks all visitors to its site even if they do not
have accounts, are logged off or have opted out [of being tracked] –…

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I am an experienced PC technician who has been the owner and sole writer of the PC Buyer Beware! website since 2004. I am learning all the time in this very dynamic, ever-changing field.