Belgian scholars have accused Facebook of illegally tracking non-Facebook users and Facebook users who have opted out of being tracked last week. According to Belgian researchers, Facebook was releasing a cookie each time somebody visited one of its domains, now being called the Facebook tracking bug. This Facebook tracking bug would track a user’s activity and extract personal information from their device, even if they were not a Facebook user, or had the done opt-out. This Facebook tracking bug only affects European users, as the Belgian team found that US and Canadian users did not have the cookie injected on their gadgets.
Facebook has admitted to the Facebook tracking bug in a blog post yesterday, but says that the EU’s accusations of the social network being in violation of EU privacy laws is unwarranted. Actually, the term Facebook tracking bug is now in effect because Zuckerberg and co. say that the activation of the cookie was not intentional, but a bug in their systems. Nice save, Facebook! Even though the cookie would be activated the moment when an EU citizen accessed any Facebook page or website that uses Facebook share handles or integration, even if they weren’t members of the Facebook community, the social network is confident that it was just a bug.
The EU were angry at these alleged privacy violations after they were uncovered, and Facebook would have probably faced a lawsuit if it turned out that the social network was willingly tracking these individuals. Now, it seems that the Facebook tracking bug is just “standard web impressions” and that the tracking is in compliance with the law, at least according to Facebook. Although people are not quite getting to a consensual conclusion about this problem, the EU does not seem to be convinced that the Facebook tracking bug should be there for those who don’t want it. This fiasco will eventually be settled between the authors of the report from Belgium and Facebook. That is, until the EU passes new privacy laws which will send hefty fines towards companies that don’t comply with them.
The conclusions we can draw at this moment are as follows: Facebook thinks the tracking bug in its present state is a bug; Facebook doesn’t think that it is in violation of EU privacy laws, even though people who have opted out of tracking are still being tracked; the EU has not come to a conclusion as of yet, as there is an ongoing investigation into the matter; Facebook might be sued, once again.