Meta To Seek EU Users' Consent For Behavioral Ad Targeting

Bowing to pressure from European Union regulators, Meta says it intends to start allowing Facebook and Instagram users in the EU, EEA (European Economic Area) and Switzerland to consent up front before advertisers can use their behavioral data for ad targeting purposes.

The change does not apply to users in the U.K. or other regions.

Meta used to use a contractual legal premise as the basis for requiring that users joining Facebook and Instagram agree by default to allow all data collected by Meta to be used for ad targeting. (Users can go through a process to opt out of the use of detailed behavioral data, but Meta still targets ads using broader demographics data, such as general location and age range, according to The Verge.) After EU regulators said the contractual premise was in violation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), in January, Meta switched to using a “legitimate interests” legal premise. But EU regulators have since rejected that basis, as well, leaving Meta (and presumably other tech giants) no alternative but to allow upfront opt-outs.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Meta announced that it intends to change the legal basis for processing data for behavioral ad targeting in these regions from “legitimate interests” to “consent.”

“This change is to address a number of evolving and emerging regulatory requirements in the region, notably how our lead data protection regulator in the EU, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), is now interpreting GDPR in light of recent legal rulings, as well as anticipating the entry into force of the Digital Markets Act (DMA),” Meta wrote.

Meta did not lay out the specifics, and EU regulators have not indicated as yet whether they will accept what amounts at this point to a proposal on Meta’s part.

However, the introduction of such a simple opt-out — which Meta has said could take at least three months to implement, according to Wall Street Journal sources — will undoubtedly reduce the universe of users in the region who can be targeted using extensive behavorial information.

Still, in its blog, Meta asserted that there will be no immediate impact to its services in the region once the change is implemented. “Advertisers will still be able to run personalized advertising campaigns to reach potential customers and grow their businesses,” the company wrote. “We have factored this change into our business outlook."

In January, the DPC fined Meta more than $400 million for its use of user data on Facebook and Instagram. That was followed in May by an EU-unprecedented $1.3 billion penalty for Meta’s transferring of EU users’ data to the U.S.

Meta needs to end its years of battles with regulators to grow its business in the EU.

Meta has delayed the launch of its new Threads messaging app in the EU because of concern over running afoul of the EU’s new Digital Markets Acts through its requirement that users have an Instagram account to create a Threads account.

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