The EU's data protection watchdog has demanded Facebook and Instagram owner Meta be banned from processing user data for behavioural advertising. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


EU watchdog demands ban on Facebook and Instagram ‘behavioural advertising’


The European Union’s data protection watchdog has demanded Facebook and Instagram owner Meta be banned from processing user data for “behavioural advertising”.

It follows previous warnings from the regulator over the social media firm’s advertising practices.

Behavioural advertising involves using a person’s private data to serve them tailor-made adverts.

Referencing a recently made “binding resolution” on Meta’s activities, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) on December 7 accused it of failing to comply with previous orders to bring its behavioural advertising system in line with EU law.

As such, the body now believes a complete ban on Meta’s processing of data for the practice is warranted, ordering the Data Protection Commission (DPC) in Ireland – where the company’s Europe branch is based – to impose the prohibition.

“After careful consideration, the EDPB considered it necessary to instruct [DPC] to impose an EEA-wide processing ban, addressed to Meta,” said EDPB chair Anu Talus.

The body added that there was now an “urgent need to act in light of the risks for the rights and freedoms” of European social media users.

The EDPB’s views on the matter are not shared by all. The Irish DPC has protested against the board’s demands that it impose restrictions on Meta.

According to the Irish regulatory body, Meta has already been phasing out the practices that had earned Brussels’ ire in the first place.

Meta has now introduced a consent-based model. Users will be given the choice of opting out of behavioural advertising  – at the cost of €9.99 – or allowing Facebook and Instagram to keep serving personalised adverts to allow customers to use the services for free.

According to the Irish regulator, the EU decision to impose a ban is counterproductive and will only impede the DPC’s ability to quickly ascertain whether this new paid subscription model is in keeping with the bloc’s legislation.

It also said it feared the ban would “inevitably expose” the DPC “to significant legal risk and lead to litigation”, the Business Post reported.

Such concerns were echoed by Meta itself. A spokesperson for the social media giant told Brussels Signal the EU regulator’s complaints were out of date with the implementation of its new subscription model.

He also added that the latest accusations were “nothing new” and only built on a previous decision made by the board at the start of November.

The company has been adamant that its new subscription-or-ads model is fully in keeping with European law, point out other services have implemented similar regimes to fall in with the EU General Data Protection Regulation rules.