Meta bows to GDPR ruling to block personalised ads

facebookMeta is being forced to allow Facebook and Instagram users in Europe to opt out of some personalised ads from this week, following a GDPR ruling which outlawed the way it collects consumer data for advertising.

The January ruling, which saw the Irish Data Protection Commission slap the firm with a €390m (£346m) fine, gave the business three months to change its practices – this Wednesday (March 5) is three months to the day since the enforcement was issued.

The bulk of the firm’s revenue, over $118bn (£97.8bn) in 2021, comes from advertising.

The company intends to let users in Europe opt for a version of Meta’s services that features less personalised ads based on broad targeting categories.

Meta plans to ask users to submit an online form, located in its Help Centre, if they object to the use of their in-app activity for ad targeting. The company will then evaluate these requests.

The changes, revealed in a blog post, mean data collection will be altered from “Contractual Necessity” to “Legitimate Interests”.

The company said: “Relevant users will … be notified of this change, which will give them additional options around how we process certain information to serve behavioural advertisements, while noting that “this legal change does not prevent personalised advertising on our platform, nor does it affect how advertisers, businesses or users experience our products”.

At the time of the ruling, data protection specialist Jonathan Compton, a partner at city law firm DMH Stallard, said: “This case serves notice that big tech cannot hide behind ‘contractual necessity’ to play fast and loose with personal data of EU citizens.

“The deeper problem for Facebook, which relies on personalisation of adverts for users for about 80% of its revenue, is that this case strikes at the heart of that model, effectively denying tech firms the ability to use personal data to tailor the ad output to individual users, if this means harvesting their user data to do the tailoring.”

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