France’s data protection authority has told Facebook to stop tracking Internet users who aren’t members within the next three months or face fines.
The order was published in late January, in which the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des libertés (CNIL) said the firm tracks people’s browsing activity when visiting public pages from the site even if they don’t have an account. That sets cookies that provide information when the users visit other sites that have Facebook plugins, such as Like buttons for sharing.
CNIL also said that the social network stores details about user’s sexual orientation, including religious and political views, without their consent. The French agency said Facebook violated user rights to privacy, by compiling information on habits for targeted advertising, but didn’t give them a means to prevent the collection of data.
It is also claimed that Facebook moves personal data to the US by way of the Safe Harbor pact, which allowed American companies to store data in the states from European users until last October. The Safe Harbor pact is now defunct, though a new agreement between the US and EU, called Privacy Shield, was reached last week but has not yet come into effect.
CNIL says that Facebook has over 30 million users in France. The agency published its notice to the company publicly, “due to the seriousness of the violations and the number of individuals concerned by the Facebook service“.
A spokeswoman for the social media giant told Bloomberg: “Protecting the privacy of the people who use Facebook is at the heart of everything we do. We are confident that we comply with European Data Protection law and look forward to engaging with the CNIL to respond to their concerns“.
Facebook also hit the ice in Belgium last year for similar reasons. A Belgian court issued an ultimatum to stop tracking users who aren’t sign in, or suffer a fine of 250,000 Euros every day it violated the order.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.