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Belgian watchdog targets Facebook tracking

Staff writer |
Facebook should limit the amount of information that it collects about its users as they surf the web, the Belgian Privacy Commission said.

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The regulator, which has banded together with its counterparts in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain in order to tackle Facebook, said the company must be more transparent about its use of cookies track users around the web.

These cookies record the user's identity and information such as their language. The privacy commission said Facebook must be clear about the information it records, and must stop using cookies to track people when they are logged out of Facebook or have deactivated their accounts on the social network.

The Belgian regulator also told the company to stop collecting information through its "like" and "share" social buttons, which are installed on many websites, unless people have given their explicit consent to being tracked in this way.

The regulator recommended that people should use browser add-ons such as Ghostery and Disconnect to limit Facebook's tracking, and urged website operators who use Facebook's social buttons to install special software that stops them automatically tracking people.

The regulator does not have powers to fine companies, although the government recently said it would give the Belgian Privacy Commission such powers by the end of the year. At a press conference Friday, the agency said Belgian prosecutors could take up the case if Facebook does not comply with its recommendations.

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