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Meta should allow users to opt out of targeted advertising for free, says EU privacy watchdog

Meta should allow users to opt out of targeted advertising for free, says EU privacy watchdog

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Meta and other online platforms should give users the choice to use their services without targeted advertising according to the European Data Protection Board (EDPB).

The EDPB said that by offering users a choice between consenting to the processing of personal data for behavioural advertising purposes or paying a fee, known as the ‘consent or pay’ model, it will not be possible for large online platforms to comply with the requirements for valid consent.

Don't miss: X, Google, Meta and more fall short at ad transparency, says report

It also added that offering only a paid alternative to targeted advertising services should not be the default way forward for controllers. Instead, platforms should provide individuals with a free alternative without behavioural advertising which is an important factor in assessing valid consent under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“The models we have today usually require individuals to either give away all their data or to pay. As a result, most users consent to the processing in order to use a service, and they do not understand the full implications of their choices,” said EDPB Chair Anu Talus.

Regarded the need for consent to be free, the EDPB has set criteria that include detriment, imbalance of power and granularity.

For example, any fee charged cannot make individuals feel compelled to consent. Controllers should assess, on a case-by-case basis, whether a fee is appropriate at all and what amount is appropriate in the given circumstances.

Large online platforms should also consider whether an individual’s decision not to consent may lead them to suffer negative consequences, such as exclusion from a prominent service, lack of access to professional networks, or the risk of losing content or connections.

Regarding the imbalance of power, controllers must evaluate on a case-by-case basis the position of the platform in the market, the extent to which the individual relies on the service and the main audience of the service.

“Controllers should take care at all times to avoid transforming the fundamental right to data protection into a feature that individuals have to pay to enjoy. Individuals should be made fully aware of the value and the consequences of their choices,” added Talus.

As online platforms are under more scrutiny to be transparent in its use of data for targeted advertising, a new report has found that tech giants such as Apple, Google, Meta, X and more are failing to provide critical ad transparency tools to its users, leaving them more susceptible to disinformation. 

In the report, Mozilla and CheckFirst, a Finland-based research and software solutions company, conducted an evaluation of ad transparency tools between December 2023 and January 2024. It used different parameters that included data accessibility and usability, functionality, accuracy and analysed a number of ad transparency tools created by tech platforms such as Google, Meta, Apple, LinkedIn, X, Snapchat, Bing, TikTok and more. 

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