December 11, 2023

EU Clamping Down on Meta’s Behavioral Advertising Model

The European Data Protection Board on Wednesday announced a ban proposing blanket restrictions on Meta’s use of personal data for targeted advertisements.

The ban, which could be finalized by later next week, will force Meta to seek the consent of its European users before the company can use their personal data to target them with ads on its platforms.

The move comes right after Meta introduced a €9.99 ($10.50) subscription tier for its products in the EU, essentially putting privacy behind a paywall.

While Meta claimed that the paid subscription is intended to address the EU’s privacy concerns, it has been met with dismay and even threats of legal action.

Privacy activists and regulators in the EU argue that this is nothing more than an attempt by the company to avoid the changes necessary to make its products compliant with European laws.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mandates Meta to cite one of several specific legal justifications before it can collect the personal information of its users and use it for advertising.

The tech giant, however, argued that the fact that the contract its users entered with the company while signing up on Facebook and Instagram justified its data practices under the GDPR.

Meta also claimed that it had a “legitimate interest” in collecting and processing user data for its business activities.

Meta’s introduction of a paid ad-free subscription tier is a recognition of the court ruling and an attempt to comply with GDPR guidelines, a Meta spokesperson said.

In July, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) refused to accept that either of the justifications was persuasive.

However, the court recognized subscription models as a method that websites could deploy to differentiate between consenting and non-consenting users.

They went on to add that EDPB members were already aware of the plan for weeks and that the tech giant is engaged with them to arrive at a decision that would satisfy every party.

The European Data Protection Board’s (EDPB) decision is far from its first attempt to clamp down on Meta’s business model, which relies largely on selling vast swathes of personal user information to advertisers.

The board, which comprises a group of data regulators representing the numerous countries in the EU, has been pushing back against Meta’s aggressive data collection and sharing practices for a long time now.

The EDPB enforces the GDPR, a set of rules regarding data privacy and security enforced across the EU member states.

In a statement published on the board’s website, the EDPB announced that it had adopted a binding decision to “impose a ban on the processing of personal data for behavioral advertising on the legal bases of contract and legitimate interest across the entire European Economic Area.”

The EDPR’s latest decision also formally restricts Meta from citing either of its previous legal justifications. The only way the company can continue using personal information for advertising in the EU without infringing the GDPR is by obtaining the consent of its users.

The board added that the decision was taken following a request from Norway’s data regulator, Datatilsynet. Earlier this year, Datatilsynet banned Facebook and Instagram from targeting users with ads based on their personal data.

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