Meta Delays EU AI Launch After Privacy Complaints

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Meta delays Europe launch of AI in Europe after user, privacy group complaints over plans to train models on user data

Facebook parent Meta Platforms said it would delay the launch of its AI tools in Europe after users and a privacy group complained about its plans to use extensive public user data to train the AI models without first obtaining user consent.

The company said on Friday that the Irish data protection regulator had asked it to delay the plan to use data from Facebook and Instagram users in the EU.

Users had complained about the plans after being informed of them by Meta, which said users would have to complete a complex process if they wanted to opt out of data processing.

Privacy advocacy group Noyb made a legal complaint to data protection regulators in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Spain on the grounds that Meta’s actions contravened the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which also applies in the UK.

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The Irish DPC said it welcomed the decision, which it said followed “intensive engatement” between it and Meta.

“The DPC, in co-operation with its fellow EU data protection authorities, will continue to engage with Meta on this issue,” said DPC deputy commissioner Graham Doyle.

Meta said it planned to use publicly available and licensed information and said its actions were in line with EU and UK data protection law as a legitimate interest was involved.

The company said it was “disappointed” at the Irish DPC’s request, which it said was made on behalf of other European DPAs.

“We incorporated regulatory feedback and the European DPAs have been informed since March,” the firm said in a statement.

It called the move a “step backwards” for European innovation and competition in AI development and said it would not introduce its AI models in Europe for now as without the training data it would only be able to offer a “second-rate experience”.

‘No official change’

Meta said it would continue to work collaboratively with the DPC and added that the delay would allow it to address specific requests received from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ahead of starting the training.

The ICO said it would continue to monitor major developers of generative AI, including Meta, to review the safeguards they have put in place and to ensure the information rights of UK users are protected.

Noyb chair Max Schrems attributed the delay to the organisation’s complaints, but noted there had been no official change in policy.

“So far there is no official change of the Meta privacy policy, which would make this commitment legally binding. The cases we filed are ongoing and will need a determination,” he said.