Meta’s solution to allow Facebook and Instagram users in Europe to opt out of some personalised ads from this week, has been branded “the form from hell”, amid claims that its policy is both “laughable and embarrassing”.
The move follows the January GDPR ruling which outlawed the way both Meta sites collect consumer data for advertising. The Irish Data Protection Commission also slapped the firm with a €390m (£346m) fine, and gave the business three months to change its practices.
The changes, which came into force yesterday (April 5), mean data collection has been altered from “Contractual Necessity” to “Legitimate Interests”.
But instead of providing a simple “switch” or button to opt-out, Meta requires users to fill out a hidden form, in which users have to argue why they want to opt-out and identify each purpose for which Meta claims a “legitimate interest”.
Users then have to explain why Meta’s assessment was wrong in their individual case, making it highly unlikely that any “normal user” would be able to argue these points effectively.
Privacy campaigner Max Schrems, whose organisation NOYB brought the original case against Meta back in 2018, claims even the legitimate interest policy is unlawful.
NOYB says it will now be filing legal action against Meta’s new legal basis for processing data.
Schrems added: “Meta moves from one unlawful option to the next. Meta basically argues that their interest in maximising profits through profiling and tracking outweighs the fundamental rights of users. Several companies have already tried this approach and have been reprimanded by the authorities.”
In the meantime, NOYB has created a quick and easy way for users to object to the processing in a broad way. The free opt-out tool allows users to opt-out of any processing under legitimate interest and generally objects to the use of personal data for targeted ads.
While the tool gives users the opportunity to broadly opt out, Meta would have to argue why the broad opt-out went too far. This puts the need to argue legal details from the users to Meta. Meta has to deal with the objection without undue delay but in any event within one month.
Schrems concluded: “Our form turns the table: Meta has to argue why it has an overriding interest – not the user. Users can now opt out of data processing, and Facebook must process this objection without delay. We want to make it as easy as possible for those affected to exercise their fundamental rights.”
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