Facebook will need permission to show personalized ads in the EU

Facebook adds Photobucket and Google Calendar to its Transfer Your Information tool

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, will face limitations on delivering personalized ads in the European Union (EU) following a ruling by the EU’s Court of Justice. The court has stated that Meta’s Facebook brand must obtain user consent before displaying certain personalized ads in the EU. According to the ruling, the processing of such extensive data for customized ads cannot be justified without the explicit permission of users.

A request for comment has been made to Meta, and while the company is still evaluating the court’s decision, a spokesperson stated that they would provide further information in due course, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Meta is already in the process of appealing a €390 million EU fine (equivalent to approximately $425 million) for mandating that Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp users accept personalized ads as a prerequisite for using these platforms. The EU considers “freely given” consent to be essential for such features, and it alleges that Meta violated the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by requiring ad targeting data in exchange for basic access to Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. In its recent ruling, the Court of Justice emphasized that site operators bear the responsibility of demonstrating that users willingly grant permission.

This decision is part of a broader court ruling that enables local competition regulators, such as Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, to consider compliance with other laws, including the GDPR, when investigating antitrust cases. Essentially, a country could interpret rule violations in one domain as evidence of wider anti-competitive behavior.

The ruling’s practical implications remain somewhat ambiguous, and it is unclear how officials will interpret and enforce the requirement. Meta may be required to seek explicit consent from users for providing personalized ads on Facebook and other platforms. While this could enhance user privacy, it could also impact the company’s advertising revenue. Meta had already warned of a potential revenue decline when iOS 14 granted users the ability to reject ad tracking in apps. This latest ruling could further impact Meta’s operations in the EU, affecting all users in the region, regardless of the device they use.