LUXEMBOURG : Europe's top court ruled on Monday that online retailers must warn web users that they send personal data to Facebook through the ''like'' button.

According to the European Court of Justice [ECJ] ruling, a site that embeds the Facebook ''like'' icon and link on its pages also sends user data to the US web giant.

''It seems that the transmission occurs without that visitor being aware of it and regardless of whether or not he or she is member of the social network Facebook or has clicked on the 'Like' button,'' it said.

Under EU data protection law, therefore, a European retailer and the US platform are jointly responsible for gathering the data and sending it to Facebook's Irish subsidiary.

Users should therefore be warned and asked to consent to their data being gathered, although the retailer is not responsible for what Facebook does with it later.

''As a result of this case, companies that embed this 'like' button on their website cannot hide behind Facebook any longer,'' said Monique Goyens, of the European Consumer Organisation.

''The decision therefore underlines the right for Internet users  to always get more information on what data are collected and how they are used by websites,'' she said.

The case was brought by a German consumer protection agency  against online clothes site Fashion ID, which embeds a Facebook button to encourage shoppers to publicise its wares.

Bitkom, a German trade federation for online businesses criticised the ruling, saying it would heap costly bureaucracy on firms without enhancing their consumer protection.

''With its decision, the ECJ places enormous responsibility on thousands of website operators - from  small travel blogs to online megastores and the portals of large publishers,'' said Bitkom  CEA  Bernhard Rohleder.

He warned that the decision would go beyond Facebook and affect all social media plugins, which are important for many firms to expand their reach on the web. [AFP]


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