(Bloomberg) -- Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook should be blocked from exploiting public information on a users’ sexual orientation for targeted advertising under the European Union’s data protection rulebook, an adviser to the bloc’s top court warned. 

In case a case that pits privacy activist Max Schrems against long-time adversary Facebook, Advocate General Athanasios Rantos of the EU’s Court of Justice said that public information on sexual orientation should be safeguarded from being processed for the purposes of personalized advertising.

Thursday’s non-binding opinion was delivered after Austria’s supreme court asked the EU’s top court for guidance on the application of the bloc’s General Data Protection Regulation — or GDPR. Facebook last year lost a top EU court fight over a German antitrust order that homed in on the US tech firm’s power to cash-in on a vast trove of users’ data. 

“Just because some information is public, does not mean it can be used for any other purposes,” said Katharina Raabe-Stuppnig, a lawyer representing Schrems. “If users lose all their rights to published information, it would have a huge chilling effect on free speech.” 

A Meta spokesperson referred to an earlier statement, which said Facebook “does not use sensitive data that users provide us to personalize ads.”

Rantos also advised the court to rule that GDPR bars “the processing of personal data for the purposes of targeted advertising without restriction as to time,” and that judges should assess the proportionality in the length of time that Facebook holds onto personal data for personalized ads. 

Facebook has has since come under further regulatory scrutiny for how it it tracks its users’ internet browsing and smart phone apps for the purpose of targeted advertising, under landmark EU rules, which took full effect earlier this year.

The court’s final ruling should come in the next few months and will be binding. The case number is C-446/21. 

--With assistance from Kevin Whitelaw.

(Updates with Meta statement in the fifth paragraph.)

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