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<pre><pre>Sites could be liable for helping Facebook to follow your web browser in secret, the EU court says

According to the highest court in the European Union, website owners can run a legal risk with the ubiquitous "Like" buttons from Facebook. The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled today that site owners can be held liable for sending data to Facebook without users' consent – which seems to be exactly what happens when users visit a site with a Like button, whether or not they click it.

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The ruling does not prevent Facebook or other companies with similar widgets from offering these options. But sites must get permission from users before they send data to Facebook unless they can demonstrate a "legitimate interest" to do something else. Currently, data is apparently being sent to Facebook while the page is loading – before users have the chance to log out. It is therefore possible that sites will have to approach Like buttons differently in the future.

The case concerns a German clothing store Fashion ID, which was charged with sending personal data from users to Facebook. The court ruled that Fashion ID is not a & # 39; controller & # 39; of the data was after Facebook obtained it, but that it could be held responsible for its role in sending that data. "Fashion ID & # 39; s inclusion of the Facebook button" I like "on his website allows him to optimize the publicity for his goods by making them more visible on the social network of Facebook," says a press release. That is why Fashion ID at least implicitly agreed to collect and send personal information "to take advantage of that commercial advantage."

In a statement to TechCrunch, Facebook associate general counsel Jack Gilbert said Facebook "welcome (d) the clarity" of the decision. "We are carefully evaluating the court's decision and will work closely with our partners to ensure that they can continue to benefit from our social plug-ins and other business tools in full compliance with the law," Gilbert said. This may mean that you make unspecified changes to the operation of the Like button.

The US government has imposed a $ 5 billion fine on Facebook for failing to protect data provided by Facebook users. But the company has too used are widgets to track people on sites on the internet, regardless of whether visitors have Facebook accounts. (Other embedded social media buttons can also follow you, although some – such as Pinterest – offer opt-out options.) Today's decision will almost certainly not change the popularity of the Like button, but it would at least make the tracking functions clearer can make.