The change will give EU users new options around how their data is handled with targeted ads, but privacy group NOYB plans to take legal action against the update.
Meta has confirmed it plans to change its targeted advertising practices next week in order to comply with a January ruling by Ireland’s data watchdog.
In an updated blog post today (30 March), the company said it will change the legal basis that it uses to process certain first party data in Europe from ‘contractual necessity’ to ‘legitimate interests’. The change is set to occur on 5 April.
This change will mean EU users will be able to choose a version of Meta’s services that gives them ads based on broad categories rather than the content they click on Meta apps, according to sources speaking to The Wall Street Journal.
In January, the Data Protection Commission (DPC) fined Meta Ireland €390m for GDPR breaches related to Facebook and Instagram. Meta was also directed to bring its data processing operations into GDPR compliance within three months.
The decision followed a DPC-led investigation into complaints that Meta was forcing users to consent to the processing of their personal data by making services inaccessible unless they clicked “I accept” to show acceptance of the company’s terms of services.
The complaints alleged that this esssentially “forced” users to consent to the processing of their personal data for behavioural advertising and other personalised services, which would be a breach of GDPR.
Meta said the upcoming will change will still allow personalised advertising on its platforms and will not affect “how advertisers, businesses or users experience our products”.
“Advertisers can continue to use our platforms to reach potential customers and grow their business,” Meta said in a blog post. “Relevant users will also be notified of this change, which will give them additional options around how we process certain information to serve behavioural advertisements.”
The tech giant said the change is being made to comply with the DPC’s decision, but Meta also claims that its previous approach was GDPR-compliant and is appealing “both the substance of the rulings and the fines”.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times (FT) reports that Meta executives are considering banning political ads in the EU, as a potential measure to comply with upcoming EU regulations, according to two sources speaking with FT.
Privacy activist concerns
Meta said the legal basis of legitimate interest is used by similar platforms, but NOYB, the non-profit established by privacy advocate Max Schrems, has raised issue with the upcoming change.
NOYB said other platforms have tried to use legitimate interest as a way to allow personalised ads on their platform, but shared examples where this has been rejected by EU data watchdogs.
Schrems claims the decision is “switching one illegal practice for another illegal practice” and said NOYB will take “immediate legal action” against the change.
“Like any other company, Meta needs to have a clear yes/no option for users, where they must actively say yes if they want to give up their fundamental rights,” Schrems said. “This system of using legitimate interest at least allows for opt-out, which makes it a slight improvement for users.”
In 2021, Schrems accused the DPC of improperly lobbying other EU regulators to allow Meta to bypass GDPR regulation. The DPC said these accusations were “baseless”.
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