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Facebook Just Won a Legal Battle Over Privacy in This European Court

The Belgian data protection authority said on Wednesday it had lost a legal battle with Facebook (FB) in which it sought to stop the social network from tracking the online activities of non-Facebook users in Belgium who visit Facebook pages.

A spokeswoman for the Belgian Privacy Commission said the Brussels Appeals Court had dismissed its case on the grounds that the regulator has no jurisdiction over Facebook, which has its European headquarters in Ireland.

That marks a victory for the U.S. company, which staunchly maintained that only the Irish Data Protection Commissioner has jurisdiction over it.

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Belgium’s data protection regulator took Facebook to court a year ago, accusing it of trampling on EU privacy law by tracking people without a Facebook account without their consent.

The court ruled in favor of the regulator and ordered Facebook to stop tracking non-Facebook users when they visited a Facebook page or face a 250,000 euros ($277,325.00) daily fine.

Facebook appealed the ruling. In the meantime it said it would comply and stop using the so-called “datr” cookie which it places on people’s browsers when they visit a Facebook.com site or click a Facebook ‘Like’ button on other websites, allowing it to track the online activities of that browser.

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“We are pleased with the court’s decision and look forward to bringing all our services back online for people in Belgium,” a Facebook spokeswoman said.

The Brussels appeals court also threw out the Belgian Privacy Commission’s claim that the case was urgent and required expedited procedure.