Europe Expands Ban On Meta’s ‘Behavioural Ad’ Practices

European privacy officials have widened a ban on the “ behavioural advertising” practices of Meta Platforms.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) announced it had “adopted an urgent binding decision instructing the Irish DPA as lead supervisory authority to take, within two weeks, final measures regarding Meta Ireland Limited (Meta IE) and to impose a ban on the processing of personal data for behavioural advertising on the legal bases of contract and legitimate interest across the entire European Economic Area (EEA).”

The EDPB is comprised of all EU privacy regulators, and previously it made binding recommendations against Meta, which resulted in Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) issuing a €390m (£343m) fine against Meta for targeting users with personalised ads broke EU data laws.

Image credit: Meta

EEA Expansion

“After careful consideration, the EDPB considered it necessary to instruct the IE SA to impose an EEA-wide processing ban, addressed to Meta IE,” said EDPB Chair Anu Talus. “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.”

“In addition, Meta has been found by the IE SA to not have demonstrated compliance with the orders imposed at the end of last year,” said Talus. “It is high time for Meta to bring its processing into compliance and to stop unlawful processing.”

The decision by the EDPB to expand the Meta behavioural advertising ban to the European Economic Area (namely all EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) followed a request from the Norwegian Data Protection Authority to take final measures in this matter that would have effect in the entire EEA.

Norwegian privacy officials had imposed a daily fine of 1 million kroner ($90,000) on Meta for obtaining that data without adequate consent. Those fines have been compiling since 14 August.

Behavioural advertising is used by Meta’s Facebook and Instagram and many other tech firms, involves observing individual behaviour such as browsing habits, mouse clicks and app usage, then using that data to build profiles for targeting ads.

Regulatory issues

The decision by the European Data Protection Board represents a sharp escalation, the Associated Press noted.

According to AP, Meta said it has co-operated with regulators and pointed to its announced plans to give Europeans the opportunity to consent to data collection and, later this month, to offer an ad-free subscription service in Europe that will cost 9.99 euros ($10.59) a month for access to all its products.

The latest decision “unjustifiably ignores that careful and robust regulatory process,” the company reportedly said in a statement following the European board’s action.

And it should be remembered that Meta Platforms is encountering significant regulatory problems in Europe.

In May this year the EU fined Meta a record 1.2 billion euros ($1.3bn, £1bn) and ordered it to stop transferring Facebook user data to the United States by October.

That fine was greater than the EU’s previous biggest GDPR penalty of 746m euros given to Amazon.com in 2021.

And such is the regulatory difficulties in Europe that Meta chose in the summer to launch its Twitter rival Threads in 100 countries including the UK and US.

Threads.
Image credit Meta Platforms

However, it opted not to launch Threads in the EU due to the regulatory concerns.

Meta is also among the tech giants that the EU has classified as online “gatekeepers” that must face the highest level of scrutiny under its Digital Markets Act.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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