A court case has been filed against Meta in the UK by human rights campaigner Tanya O’Carroll over the company’s alleged “surveillance” advertising.
Meta allegedly “repeatedly refused to respect” O’Carroll’s “absolute right to object to being surveilled and profiled.”
While the case is being brought by an individual data subject in the UK against Facebook, O’Carroll says that the case could have far-reaching implications for other users in the EU and the US.
Under the EU’s GDPR regulations, internet users have the “right to object” to handing over swathes of personal information to internet companies. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority said that Facebook “uses default settings to nudge people into using their services and giving up their data,” including requiring them to “accept personalised advertising as a condition for using the service.”
Specifically, the case alleges that Facebook has breached article 21 (2) of the UK’s GDPR rules, which gives individuals the right to protest against the processing of their personal data for marketing purposes.
“We shouldn’t have to give up every detail of our personal lives just to connect with friends and family online. The law gives us the right to take back control over our personal data and stop Facebook surveilling and tracking us.” said O’Carroll, who is also a senior fellow at internet privacy charity, Foxglove.
“Meta is straining to concoct legal arguments to deny our client even has this right. But Tanya’s claim is straight-forward; it will hopefully breathe life back into the rights we are all guaranteed under the GDPR,” said Ravi Naik, O’Carroll’s lawyer.
In a statement, Foxglove said that Facebook has “hired very expensive lawyers to say the law doesn’t apply to them and could endanger their business model,” before adding “the idea that Facebook needs to use surveillance ads to make a profit is, frankly, for the birds.”
Meta has not yet acknowledged the claim, nor has it confirmed that it will defend it. O’Carroll has said that she is not seeking damages but a yes or no decision on whether she can opt out of being profiled for advertising.
A Meta spokesperson told The Guardian in the UK that: “We know that privacy is important to our users and we take this seriously. That’s why we build tools like privacy check-up and ads preferences, where we explain what data people have shared and show how they can exercise control over the type of ads they see.”
The EU’s far-reaching GDPR rules do not apply to companies within Australia and it seems likely, whatever the verdict in the UK’s High Court, that Meta would not apply the ruling over here.
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