A court in Brussels has ordered Facebook to stop tracking the activity of online users, particularly those who don't own an account on the social media website. The attending judge says Facebook has 48 hours to do so, and if the social networking firm fails to comply, it'll face a $269,000 fine on a daily basis.

Facebook has a pretty rough relationship with Belgium, where the Belgian Privacy Commission accused it of acting like the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States. According to Belgium's privacy watchdog, when online users visit websites or click on the Facebook Like or Share button, the social media website indiscriminately tracks them, regardless of whether or not they are part of the site's 1 billion active users.

"The judge ruled that this is personal data, which Facebook can only use if the [I]nternet user expressly gives their consent, as Belgian privacy law dictates" reads the court's statement regarding the matter.

Websites use cookies to track their visitors' online activities, including but not limited to the preferences they set and the duration of their visit.

The Belgian court claims that Facebook uses a special cookie that automatically and discretely installs itself on any device, even if the visitor isn't a member of the site. This cookie, which Facebook calls datr cookie, is safe, according to the social networking site.

"We've used the datr cookie for more than five years to keep Facebook secure for 1.5 billion people around the world," a Facebook spokesman tells AFP in an email.

This stems from the decision of the top court in Europe, ruling that the "safe harbor" deal that allows companies to transfer personal information of Europeans to the United States is "invalid," as the data is allegedly open to spy agencies.

As expected, Facebook says it will appeal against the decision, saying that it is hard at work to provide Facebook users in Belgium access to the social networking website without disruption.

Photo: Bhupinder Nayyar | Flickr

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