Meta to seek user consent for targeted ads in response to EU pressure.

Meta to seek user consent for targeted ads in response to EU pressure.

Meta Considers Opt-In Advertising for Users in the EU

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In today’s digital age, personal data has become a valuable commodity. Companies like Meta (formerly known as Facebook) have built highly targeted advertising models around the vast amounts of personal data users share on their platforms. This has allowed Meta to generate tens of billions of dollars in revenue each year. However, with increasing concerns about privacy and data protection, the company is now considering offering users in the European Union (EU) the option to “opt-in” to personalized ads.

Since April, Meta has provided users in Europe with the ability to opt-out from receiving personalized ads. However, this has involved completing a lengthy form on the help pages, which has likely deterred many users from taking action. By introducing an opt-in option, Meta would default to protecting users’ privacy, ensuring that only generalized ads based on broader demographic data (such as age) are displayed.

Under EU law, users must be able to access Meta’s platforms even if they choose to opt out of personalized ads. This change proposed by Meta is a response to an order issued by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) in January. The DPC has urged the company to reevaluate the legal basis of its ad targeting practices. The mounting pressure from EU privacy regulators, including the record €1.2 billion fine imposed by the DPC on Meta for violating GDPR rules, has forced the company to take these measures seriously.

The fines imposed under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are significant, with Meta being responsible for half of the €5 billion issued in fines since the law came into effect five years ago. Moreover, the newly introduced Digital Markets Act (DMA) has also affected Meta. It compelled the tech giant to postpone the release of its social app, Threads, in the EU. As the EU tightens its grip on privacy regulations, Meta seems to be under pressure to comply.

Implementing regulations that limit the use of personal data for advertising purposes could have a substantial impact on Meta’s revenue, as the EU region alone accounted for 23% of its $31.5 billion in advertising revenue in the second quarter of this year. Recognizing the potential financial implications, Meta is now exploring ways to find a balance between targeting ads based on user data and protecting users’ privacy.

However, privacy campaigner Max Schrems, who filed the original GDPR complaint against Meta in 2018, remains skeptical. He plans to closely monitor how Meta applies the new ad consent policy. Schrems, through his privacy rights not-for-profit organization, noyb, emphasizes the need for Meta to fully comply with the law. He raises concerns about the company’s use of terms like “highly personalized” or “behavioral” ads, arguing that the GDPR covers all types of personalization, including factors such as age, which do not necessarily fall under the category of “behavior.”

In conclusion, Meta’s consideration of implementing an opt-in advertising model for users in the EU signifies the growing importance of privacy and data protection in the digital landscape. While the company has profited immensely from its targeted advertising approach, regulatory pressure and substantial fines have forced the social media giant to reevaluate its practices. The potential change in its ad consent policy could be a crucial step towards finding a middle ground between personalized ads and protecting users’ privacy.