Meta is facing a Europe-wide behavioural advertising ban

2 Nov 2023

Image: © Olga/

Meta faces a permanent ban to its targeted advertising practices across Europe, but recently announced an ad-free offering to comply with regulations.

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) looks set to issue a ban on Meta’s personal data processing for the use of behavioural advertising across the entire European Economic Area (EEA).

The Irish regulator was ordered by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) to impose this ban within two weeks. This “urgent binding decision” was issued on 27 October.

The ban would mean that Meta would no longer be allowed to use the data of its users for the purpose of targeted advertising. Norway issued a temporary ban on Meta’s behavioural advertising practices earlier this year.

The EDPB said Norway’s data protection authority issued a request for a “final measure” on the matter of Meta’s behavioural advertising.

“It is high time for Meta to bring its processing into compliance and to stop unlawful processing,” said EDPB chair Anu Talus.

At the start of 2023, Ireland’s DPC fined Meta Ireland €390m for GDPR breaches related to Facebook and Instagram. This followed binding decisions issued by the EDPB in December 2022. Meta was also directed to bring its data processing operations into GDPR compliance within three months.

In March, Meta agreed to change its targeted advertising practices in order to comply with this January ruling. The company changed the legal basis around how it processes some data in Europe from ‘contractual necessity’ to ‘legitimate interests’. However, the EDPB’s decision applies to both legal bases.

“Already in December 2022, the EDPB binding decisions clarified that contract is not a suitable legal basis for the processing of personal data carried out by Meta for behavioural advertising,” Talus said.

“In addition, Meta has been found by the [DPC] to not have demonstrated compliance with the orders imposed at the end of last year.”

A meta spokesperson told The Independent that the ban “unjustifiably ignores” preparations the company has made to comply with regulations. Earlier this week, Meta confirmed plans to bring an ad-free subscription tier for users in most parts of the EEA.

“Like other companies we’ll continue to advocate for an ad-supported internet, even with our new subscription offering in the EU, EEA and Switzerland,” Meta said earlier this week. “But we respect the spirit and purpose of these evolving European regulations and are committed to complying with them.”

The EDPB said it is aware of Meta’s proposal to rely on a “consent-based approach as legal basis” and that Ireland’s DPC is “evaluating this” with other data protection authorities.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic