The report concedes that although Facebook shares high-level information about tracking practices with its users, its tracking capabilities have increased and that the collection and application of that tracking data violates an EU privacy doctrine that requires informed user consent before companies store or collect information about an individual’s device.
“Facebook’s tracking capabilities have expanded mainly through the spread of social-plugins (like buttons) and through new forms of mobile tracking,” the report claims.
According to the researchers, these plugins sit on more than 13 million sites and detect an Internet browser’s cookies, sending that tracking data back to Facebook – even if the user is not registered with Facebook and didn’t click “Like.”
The report also argues Facebook’s opt-out option is ambiguous and unclear.
“[Facebook] does not walk users through the settings for vis-à-vis advertising or access by third-party application providers,” the authors wrote, adding that this approach “does not meet the requirements for legally valid consent.”
EU consumer privacy concerns tend to be more stringent than those in the US. While most privacy advocates tend to sic their watchdogs on Google, Facebook has largely gone unnoticed – until now.
This latest report could signal that Facebook is no longer invisible and that it’s worth wondering if a trickle-down effect is in play.
One theory is that regulators will continue to crack down on the largest firms before the long arm of EU law reaches smaller companies.