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Facebook says it didn’t track everyone in the EU… intentionally

Facebook User Data Tracking Privacy

Responding to a report from the Belgian government’s privacy watchdog that recently caused some controversy around Facebook’s privacy practices, the social network on Thursday said the findings were inaccurate, The Wall Street Journal reveals. Facebook explained how it conducts its business operations in Europe, when it comes to personal data collection and user tracking, and said that it doesn’t track users who aren’t on Facebook. Or at least that’s how things should work, as a “bug” allowed the company to continue tracking users in the region who don’t have registered Facebook accounts.

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The bug has been identified and it’s being fixed, the company said.

Researchers from the Catholic University of Leuven and the Free University of Brussels said Facebook gave customers “false sense of control” of their data, but didn’t provide a “meaningful choice” about how their information is handled for advertising purposes. The report also said Facebook didn’t meet legal requirements when combining information from multiple services including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, and forced people to find ways of opting-out advertising services, rather than opting-in.

Facebook says that it operates in Europe according to existing laws and publishes audits performed by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.

Meanwhile, researchers behind the study say that Facebook’s response “unfairly” attributes statements to them they did not make, and that they stand behind their findings.

It’s not clear whether the Belgian report will lead to any fines, as the Belgian Privacy Commission can’t by itself sanction the company. But a new law in the EU on personal data could see companies like Facebook facing fines of up to 5% of annual revenue or €100 million, for violating privacy laws.

Facebook’s full response to the Belgian report is available at the source link.

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.