The tracking and privacy-abusing power of Facebook’s “like” button embedded in third-party websites has been known for a long time to those who pay attention to such problems.
Now, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) has discovered that the plugin collects and transmits data of visitors to third-party websites to Facebook – and ruled this was a violation of EU privacy rules.
Also, those websites are to be considered “jointly responsible” with Facebook for collection and transmission – but not for what Facebook then does with this data. The ruling cannot be appealed.
The judgment came in a case challenging an online retailer’s decision to embed Facebook’s “like” button on its website as a violation of EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The ECJ found that personal data was being transmitted without the knowledge of visitors – regardless of whether they clicked the “like” button, and even if they are not Facebook users at all.
The outcome could prove to be a landmark decision when it comes to the legal status of companies collaborating with Facebook in this way because being held jointly responsible with a tech giant could prove to be highly risky business.
Legal experts say the risk stems from liability for any subsequent abuse of the data collected in this way – in other words, the kind of privacy violations that EU regulators have been happy to punish with fines worth billions of dollars.
Facebook reacted to the decision of the Luxembourg-based court to say that embedding plugins in websites was “an important feature” of the internet.
And the company would analyze the ruling and look for ways to continue with the practice of offering its plugins to third-party websites – “in full compliance with the law” – said a statement from the company’s general counsel.
A solution for Facebook and its partners may be contained in the ruling itself, however.
Reuters said that the court has ordered website owners to obtain consent from visitors before transferring their data to Facebook.
This may open the door for websites to “solve” the problem by displaying annoying popups that most users click away without even reading them.