European authorities have expanded their restrictions on Meta’s use of “behavioral advertising” to include most of Europe, sparking a larger clash between the continent’s privacy-focused institutions and the American tech behemoth.
Companies like Facebook and Instagram, owned by Meta, utilize behavioral advertising which involves monitoring individual actions like browsing, clicking, and app usage. This information is then used to create profiles for targeted advertising.
The European Data Protection Board’s ruling marks a significant increase in a conflict that originated in Norway. There, privacy authorities fined Meta 1 million kroner (approximately $90,000) per day for obtaining data without sufficient consent. These penalties have been accumulating since August 14.
According to a statement from the company, Meta has worked with regulators and mentioned their previous announcement of allowing Europeans to agree to data collection and launching an ad-free subscription service for 9.99 euros ($10.59) per month. The company believes that the recent decision by the European board disregards the thorough regulatory process.
According to Tobias Judin, the leader of the global division at the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, Meta’s suggested measures are unlikely to meet the legal requirements in Europe. One specific issue is that consent must be given voluntarily, but this would not be the case if current users were forced to choose between sacrificing their privacy rights or paying for a subscription.
Judin stated in an email that Meta’s business model goes against the law and violates users’ basic rights. He also mentioned that Meta is unwilling to compromise and continues to engage in illegal activities because it brings in high profits.
Meta has faced scrutiny regarding data privacy for a considerable amount of time. In May, the European Union issued a significant $1.3 billion penalty to Meta and mandated that it cease transferring users’ personal data across the Atlantic by October. Additionally, the company’s latest text-based application, Threads, has not been launched in the EU due to regulatory apprehensions.
Meta is also among the companies that the EU is targeting under new digital rules aimed at reining in the market power of tech giants. In addition to the Facebook owner, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google parent Alphabet and TikTok parent ByteDance were classified in early September as online “gatekeepers” that must face the highest level of scrutiny under the 27-nation bloc’s Digital Markets Act.