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Websites using Facebook 'Like' button liable for data, Europe's top court decides
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Websites using Facebook 'Like' button liable for data, Europe's top court decides

'Like' button plugins can transmit people's data back to Facebook even if they don't click on those buttons, the ECJ finds.

Facebook's 'Like' button appears to be another security risk for internet users. Most companies use that Like button on their websites as a plugin, and on Monday Europe's top court decided that companies can be held jointly responsible with Facebook for the transfer of people's data.

The court based its decision on the case of Fashion ID, a German online clothing retailer, which had the Like button plugin installed on its website. The data of visitors to the website was being transferred back to Facebook without their knowledge, even if they hadn't clicked the button or weren't members of the social network, the court found.

In the Court of Justice published opinion, Fashion ID and other websites like it, cannot be responsible for what happens to the data after it's passed to Facebook, but they are responsible for all "operations involving the collection and disclosure by transmission to Facebook."

The decision means that all websites transmitting data about European citizens back to Facebook and other social networks, either by using a Like button or any other plugin, must first get permission to do so in order to comply EU data protection rules introduced last year. In accordance with Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), people must give consent for their data to be collected.

Companies are still learning how to comply with GDPR, and decisions such as the one made by the Court of Justice on Monday help clarify their roles when the lines are blurred. For Facebook and other social media companies, the judgment provides a clearer idea of which data collection and processing responsibilities are theirs alone, and which are shared by third parties.

With Facebook recently being fined 5 billion dollars by the US Federal Trade Commission for improperly sharing users data, we should expect to see further US Court rulings like this one from the EU Courts in the future against Facebook and other data/media sharing companies.

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