EU Fines Facebook $400 Million for Ads Based on User Activity — The U.S. Should Follow Suit and up the Ante

If you’re a regular Facebook user, I can fire you up with just two words: targeted ads. While the multitude of ads on Facebook is irritating enough, Zuckerville’s ads targeting me based on my online activity is beyond irritating; it’s ominous. Elon Musk’s Twitter revelations should be proof enough for all Americans.


The European Union (EU) is irritated, as well — and finally doing something about it.

A top European Union privacy regulator ruled that Meta — Facebook’s parent company — can’t use its contracts with Facebook and Instagram users to justify sending them ads based on their online activity, as the Wall Street Journal reported, delivering one of the trading bloc’s biggest blows yet to the digital-advertising industry. As I said in the headline, it’s past time to stop Zuckerberg’s playground from doing the same in this country — and worse.

The ruling, announced Wednesday by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, also imposed fines of 390 million euros, or $414 million, on Meta, alleging that the company violated EU privacy laws by saying such ads are necessary to execute contracts with users. While the amount of the fine is a relative pittance to Meta the allegations and potential future losses got the Big Tech company’s attention.

Meta, which also owns Instagram, “shockingly” disagrees with the ruling and plans to appeal both the allegation and the fine. The company said it rejects the idea that it would have to seek users’ consent as a legal justification under EU law, and cited “a lack of regulatory certainty in this area,” adding:

We strongly believe our approach respects GDPR, and we’re therefore disappointed by these decisions.

That has Mark Zuckerberg’s name written all over it, sports fans, and if we’ve learned anything from the supreme ruler of Zuckerville over the years, he says one thing — including during congressional hears — and often does another, including the continued manipulation of Facebook’s algorithm.


Here’s more, via the WSJ:

Ireland’s two decisions—one for Facebook and one for Instagram—give the company three months to stop relying on their contracts with users to justify its use of so-called behavioral ads, which are targeted based on a user’s online activity. Meta could, however, seek a stay on implementing the decisions pending its appeal.

Ireland’s privacy regulator said it issued its decisions after a board representing all privacy regulators in the bloc last month ordered the Irish regulator to do so, over the Irish regulator’s objections, The Wall Street Journal earlier reported. Ireland leads the enforcement of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation for Meta because the company’s European headquarters are in Dublin.

The Irish decisions are significant because they could end up restraining Meta’s ability to use some of the data it collects on its own apps. The decisions don’t specifically order Meta to seek users’ consent to use their activity data to target their ads, but they eliminate the contractual legal justification Meta currently uses to do so. That leaves the company few other options under EU law to justify such ads, privacy lawyers and activists say.

As I said in the headline,  it’s time for the U.S. to not only follow the EU’s lead but also to up the ante — big time. Targeting users based on their online activity has shown us that the more information Big Tech gathers on our online activity, the more it learns about us — potentially including far more than whose shirts or shoes we wear. With the Federal Government and Democrat Party lurking in the background — where might it all end?


The Bottom Line

At first blush, multitudinous irrelevant ads on one’s Facebook feed might seem like a first-world or “Cadillac” problem to some. But is it? Given the revelations following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter — which will continue— the realization, backed by hard facts, that Big Tech has not only been in bed with the Federal Government, but also the Democrat Party, to censor news, facts, and opinions — all beneficial to the left — those irritating ads have also taken on a whole new ominous meaning.

A meaning that asks, “What’s next?”

What other types of personal information are Big Tech “arbiters of truth” collecting and passing along to the government and the left? Time will tell — along with Elon Musk, and perhaps others who’ll follow his lead.


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