Facebook expects to be served this week with an order from the Belgian Privacy Commissioner (BPC) asking the site to stop using cookies that track non-Facebook-using visitors. People who don’t have profiles will now also have to create them in order to see publicly available content on the site.
Facebook expressed disappointment in the order, and also suggested Belgian users may be less safe as a result.
“We had hoped to address the BPC’s concerns in a way that allowed us to continue using a security cookie that protected Belgian people from more than 33,000 takeover attempts in the past month,” a Facebook spokeswoman said. “We’re disappointed we were unable to reach an agreement and now people will be required to log in or register for an account to see publicly available content on Facebook.”
Though Facebook will almost certainly contest this ruling, it could spell big trouble for the site all over the world. As pointed out by privacy commentator Paul Bernal, Belgium isn’t applying Belgian law to go after Facebook; they’re applying European law. That means many more countries could challenge Facebook’s privacy policies if they wanted, and with Belgium’s big success, you can bet they’re thinking about it.