The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) has instructed Ireland's Data Protection Authority (DPA) to put a ban on Meta's processing of personal data for behavioral advertising within the European single market. The mandate comes from a decision made in response to a request from Norway's Data Protection Authority, Datatilsynet, in September. Datatilsynet had asked the EDPB to extend an existing ban on Meta's processing of personal data in Norway, applied through Facebook and Instagram, to the entire European Economic Area (EEA).
Meta's Non-Compliance and The Consequences
This directive, which potentially poses a hurdle for Meta's social networking plans, comes after a finding by the DPA that Meta has failed to comply with orders imposed at the end of 2022 regarding the processing of personal data. EDPB Chair Anu Talus emphasized that it was time for Meta to “stop unlawful processing“. The EDPB and European courts have rejected Meta's argument that its Terms & Conditions contract represents a valid legal basis for personal data processing and the delivery of behaviorally-targeted advertisements.
Meta's Response and Future Plans
Meta expressed its surprise at the EDPB's collection ban, telling The Register that the board had been aware of Meta's plan to obtain consent for data processing legally. The company intends to introduce a popup in its Facebook and Instagram apps in the EEA, asking for the legally acceptable consent to process personal data within a week or two. This move could render the ban relatively inconsequential.
The Norwegian Data Protection Authority, however, expressed strong doubts about the legality of Meta's proposed consent solution, wherein those who do not consent to behavior-based marketing must pay a fee. Meanwhile, privacy advocates and organizations like Austria-based Noyb, argue that Meta's interpretation of consent does not comply with the law.
If Meta does not cooperate, the DPA has various potential enforcement actions at its disposal, including substantial fines, bank account seizures, removal orders for Facebook and Instagram from European App Stores, or even asking Internet Service Providers to undertake network-level intervention.
Meta's Ad-Free Subscription Plan
Earlier this week, Meta confirmed plans to introduce an ad-free subscription to appease European regulators. Meta released an official statement confirming the start of ad-free subscription plans for its Facebook and Instagram social media users in the European Union, the European Economic Area, and Switzerland. This move was made official following previous speculations concerning the same issue.
The announcement revealed that these subscription plans are devised in line with regulations like the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Digital Markets Act. These laws obligate a limitation on the amount of personal data an online platform can possess through an ad-driven free service.