(Bloomberg) -- Meta Platforms Inc. is set to be hit by a Europe-wide ban on leveraging the trove of personal data of Facebook and Instagram users to target them with ads — a move the social network giant says ignores its recent moves to give people more control.
The curbs — approved on Oct. 27 by a panel of European regulators responsible for enforcing data privacy rules in the region — will extend temporary measures already in place in Norway.
Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, Meta’s lead privacy watchdog in the region, now has two weeks “to impose a ban on the processing of personal data for behavioral advertising on the legal bases of contract and legitimate interest,” Greet Gysen, a spokeswoman for the European Data Protection Board, said in an emailed response to questions from Bloomberg.
Regulators signed off on the new restrictions just as Meta announced its own plan to offer an ad-free version of the social media sites if users choose to pay a fee. This subscriptions model would comply with regulatory requirements, according to the company.
Meta said in a statement that EDPB members had “been aware of this plan for weeks and we were already fully engaged with them to arrive at a satisfactory outcome for all parties.” The ban “unjustifiably ignores that careful and robust regulatory process,” it said.
Norway’s data protection authority had pushed for the Europe-wide ban. In July it imposed its own curbs on Meta’s behavioral advertising. This concerned tracking the activity of its social media services’ users “in detail,” and profiling them “based on where they are, what type of content they show interest in and what they publish, amongst others.”
In August, the agency slapped Meta with a 1 million krone ($90,000) daily fine, for failing to comply with the ban.
Penalties have accrued to a total of 79 million krone, said Tobias Judin, a spokesman for the Norwegian watchdog.
Meta to Offer Ad-Free Facebook, Instagram Plans in Europe
The EU’s top court clarified in July — in a case concerning Meta’s Facebook — that processing users’ personal data without their consent for such ads, isn’t in line with EU data protection law. The decision increased the risks for further regulatory scrutiny of Meta.
The judgment also said that while “users must be free to refuse individually” to consent to any unnecessary processing, they can’t be barred from using the service, “which means that those users are to be offered, if necessary for an appropriate fee, an equivalent alternative not accompanied by such data processing operations.”
As a result, Meta announced it would offer users in Europe ad-free access to Facebook and Instagram for a subscription starting in November. Regulators are still scrutinizing whether the plan would satisfy their concerns over how the company collects users’ personal data.
The Irish data protection watchdog said its main focus now is to conclude “its detailed assessment of the consent-model” together with its fellow European supervisory authorities.
--With assistance from Jillian Deutsch.
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