Meta could make targeted Ads an Opt-In Choice in Europe

Meta is proposing a significant change to its personalized, targeted ads in the European Union, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. The company aims to make these ads an up-front opt-in choice for EU users, allowing them to decide whether they want to allow Meta to target ads based on their activities within the social media services. If the EU accepts Meta's proposal, users would have a three-month or longer window to make this decision.

This move is an attempt by Meta to resolve its ongoing conflict with the EU regarding the use of personal data for advertisements under European privacy laws. Currently, EU users of Meta's platforms can opt out of targeted ads, rather than having the option to opt in. For those who choose to opt out, the company still targets ads using broader demographic data like general location and age range. The specifics of Meta's new proposal are yet to be disclosed, so it remains uncertain if generalized targeting will still be allowed.

Meta's revenue growth faced challenges last year due to economic conditions and Apple's prompt to "Ask App Not to Track," which limited the amount of data the company's services could gather from third-party apps. The new EU regulations limiting targeting based on user behavior within Meta's apps could have a significant impact on the company's main source of income.

In addition to this, Meta's shortform posting app, Threads, experienced delays in Europe due to "regulatory uncertainty." The company is uncertain if the app, which it claims complies with the GDPR, also meets the requirements of the EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA). The DMA mandates that tech gatekeepers avoid "self-preferencing" their products and services, and Threads' requirement to have an Instagram account could potentially breach this rule.

As part of its response to evolving regulatory requirements in the EU, Meta intends to request users' consent before allowing businesses to target advertising based on their activities on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. This decision comes after an order by Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner in January, which prompted Meta to reassess the legal basis of its ad targeting practices.

Previously, Facebook and Instagram users had effectively agreed to allow their data to be used in targeted advertising when accepting the terms and conditions of the services. However, the regulator ruled that personal information could not be processed in that manner.

In a blog post, Meta announced its intention to change the legal basis for processing certain data for behavioral advertising in the EU, EEA (European Economic Area), and Switzerland from "Legitimate Interests" to "Consent." The company assured that this change would not immediately impact its services in the region, and advertisers would still be able to run personalized advertising campaigns. Meta plans to provide further information on the practical implementation of this change following engagement with regulators. The Data Protection Commissioner confirmed that it has received correspondence from Meta on this matter, as it serves as the lead privacy regulator for many of the world's largest technology companies operating within the EU.

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