Facebook tracking will allow users to opt-out – but only in Europe

Home » Facebook tracking will allow users to opt-out – but only in Europe
Facebook tracking will allow users to opt-out – but only in Europe

Parent company Meta reportedly plans to allow users to opt out of Instagram and Facebook tracking – but only if you live in Europe …

The plans were developed after the company was fined more than $400M for forcing users to agree to tracking as part of Facebook and Instagram terms of service – the third time it has been fined by European Union regulators.

Currently, both platforms monitor the videos you watch, and other content you access, within both Facebook and Instagram apps. From this, it builds a profile of your interests, and uses this to serve you with personalized ads intended to appeal to those interests.

It’s long been unclear whether this has ever been legal within the European Union, which has the toughest privacy laws in the world. However, following a series of three multimillion-dollar fines, the tracking is becoming increasingly untenable for the company.

At one point, Meta even threatened to withdraw both Facebook and Instagram apps from EU countries over other privacy concerns – a nonsensical bluff which nobody took seriously.

The company is now approaching deadlines for complying fully with EU privacy laws.

Opt-out plans

The Wall Street Journal reports that Meta plans to try to get around this problem by allowing users within EU countries to opt out of this tracking.

Under the plan, Meta, beginning Wednesday, will allow EU users to choose a version of its services that would only target them with ads based on broad categories, such as their age range and general location—without using, as it does now, data such as what videos they watch or content they click on inside Meta’s apps, the people said.

However, the opt-out process appears to be deliberately designed to be difficult, in order to deter users from taking advantage of it. The report says that users will have to state their reasons for objection in an online application form, which the company will then “evaluate” before reaching a decision.

9to5Mac’s Take

This has all the appearance of a desperate measure, Meta doing everything it can to try to cling on to user tracking in order to retain the significantly higher revenues it is able to attract from personalized advertising.

Desperate, because it seems exceedingly unlikely to comply with EU law. Privacy must be automatic, not something for which users have to “apply.” And additionally because limiting it to EU countries is going to highlight the lower privacy standards offered in the US and elsewhere.

Long-term, it seems clear that public opinion is now very much against this type of tracking, and I suspect that Meta – and others – will eventually have to abandon the practice altogether.

Image: Glen Carrie/Unsplash

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