Meta's Ad Practices Under European Scrutiny

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) has taken a definitive stand against Meta, the tech giant behind Facebook and Instagram, with regards to its use of personal data for targeted advertising.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Meta's Ad Practices Under European Scrutiny
© Getty Images News/Leon Neal

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) has taken a definitive stand against Meta, the tech giant behind Facebook and Instagram, with regards to its use of personal data for targeted advertising. This decision promises to send ripples through the digital economy and could redefine privacy norms for social media users across the European Economic Area (EEA).

The EDPB Strikes Down Meta's Ad Model

The ruling, which France 24 highlighted, underscores a growing concern for user privacy in the digital age. The EDPB's decision prohibits Meta from processing personal data for targeted advertising based on the "legal grounds of contract and legitimate interest" throughout the EEA.

The ban is not only a reaction to Meta's advertising practices but also follows the company's announcement that it would introduce a subscription service for an ad-free experience on Facebook and Instagram in Europe. Meta's response to the ruling was swift.

On Wednesday, a company spokesperson expressed disappointment, emphasizing that EDPB members had been informed of their plans to introduce a new subscription model that aligns with regulatory requirements. "EDPB members have been aware of this plan for weeks and we were already fully engaged with them to arrive at a satisfactory outcome for all parties," the spokesperson said, criticizing the EDPB's decision for disregarding the company's collaborative efforts with the regulatory body.

The ruling is not without immediate consequences. It directs Ireland's data regulator—given that Meta's European headquarters are based in Ireland—to enact a permanent ban on Meta's behavioral advertising within two weeks.

The directive is clear: the ban must be in place seven days after it comes into effect, setting a brisk pace for compliance that underscores the urgency of the matter.

What This Means for Privacy and Advertising

The EDPB's binding decision is a milestone for digital privacy advocates who have long argued that the use of personal data for targeted advertising is intrusive and often done without explicit consent.

For Meta, this could mean a significant overhaul of how the company conducts its advertising business within the EEA, and perhaps a reassessment of its global privacy policies. On the flip side, the decision stirs a broader debate about the viability of ad-supported business models in a world where privacy regulations are tightening.

While Meta has hinted at introducing a subscription model without ads, the implications for the company's revenue and for users accustomed to free services are still uncertain. This tug-of-war between privacy and personalized advertising is at the heart of modern concerns about data protection.

The EDPB's decision is a clear signal that regulators will no longer tolerate the use of personal data without stringent checks and balances. How Meta and other tech giants will adapt to these regulatory winds of change remains to be seen.

But one thing is certain: the era of unbridled data collection for advertising is coming under unparalleled scrutiny, and possibly, to an end.

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