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EU Court of Justice warns Meta against using data such as sexual orientation for ads

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Advocate General Athanasios Rantos of the European Union's Court of Justice has warned Meta against using publicly accessible information on a user's sexual orientation for targeted advertising on Facebook under the EU's data protection laws. The warning was issued amidst a case involving privacy activist Max Schrems and Facebook.

In this case, Max Schrems from Austria is challenging Facebook's use of personal data for targeted advertising. Facebook's terms of service allow the company to use personal data for advertising, even if the data is publicly accessible. The activist argues that this violates the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which requires explicit consent for processing sensitive data like sexual orientation.

Facebook has been using personal data, including demographics, interests, behaviors, locations, and friend connections, for targeted advertising. However, a Meta spokesperson said to Bloomberg that Facebook “does not use sensitive data that users provide us to personalize ads.”

Facebook's compliance with the GDPR has been a subject of scrutiny, especially in light of incidents like the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where Facebook users' data was misused for political purposes. Since then, Facebook has responded to GDPR violations by attempting various strategies to comply with the regulations. Still, Facebook has repeatedly failed to fully comply with the GDPR with its repeated infractions.

In a case involving the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) last year, Facebook lost a top EU court fight over the German antitrust order that focused on Facebook's ability to profit from users' data. The FCO found that Facebook's privacy policy infringed on users' privacy rights, and the company was in breach of the GDPR due to its unlawful collection and combination of user data.

The case between activist Max Schrems and Facebook is significant because it could impact how companies use publicly available information for targeted advertising and the level of privacy rights protection under the GDPR.

The court's final ruling, which is expected in the next few months, will be binding and assess the proportionality of the length of time that Facebook holds onto personal data for personalized ads.

Via Bloomberg

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