When Public Content Is Not PublicEven if you do not have a Facebook account, the chances are good that you have looked at a company’s Facebook page at some point. After all, a tremendous amount of online marketing is done through social media outlets, and Facebook leads the pack. Since the EU has suspended the Safe Harbor Act, however, European nations have been able to make changes to how their citizens view information. Belgium has decided that if you wish to see a Belgian Facebook page, you must sign in to do so – effectively eliminating non-users chances to view public pages even if they do not have an account.

The reason for this change has to do with tracking cookies; namely, that Facebook implants these cookies every time a web user visits a Facebook page. In the US, this can be done without express permission from users, but that is not the case in Europe, which has stricter regulations requiring companies to ask for and receive permission before implanting a cookie. Rather than eliminate the cookies, Facebook has chosen to limit access, as reported by The Verge.

Does Europe have the right idea?

Back in April, we discussed how the website WebMD was collecting data on its users and sending that data off to third parties. Facebook, of course, does the same thing – as does every website that implants cookies or using tracking software to collect information on the people who use their goods of services. Belgium’s laws regulating how those cookies are used and when ensures that your privacy is more protected: after all, you will be told that you are about to be tracked, and can make the decision not to use the site. (Or agree to be tracked and go on about your business; the choice is yours, but at least you have a choice.)

Facebook, and sites like it, use algorithms that determine what kind of information you might like to see. If they were forced to pull their tracking cookies, we might see an end to targeted ads for good. On the other hand, we might find ourselves awash in a slew of ads that we would prefer not to see at all. The one thing we would know for sure is that we were being tracked – and seeing those words in print on the screen might remind us that nothing we put online is ever truly private.