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Europe widens ban on Meta’s behavioral advertising

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — European officials widened a ban on Meta’s “behavioral advertising” practices to most of Europe on Wednesday, setting up a broader conflict between the continent’s privacy-conscious institutions and an American technology giant.

Behavioral advertising, used by Meta’s Facebook and Instagram among many other tech companies, involves observing individual behavior such as browsing habits, mouse clicks and app usage, then using that data to build profiles for targeting ads.

The decision by the European Data Protection Board represents a sharp escalation of a tussle that began in Norway, where privacy officials imposed a daily fine of NOK1 million — roughly USD90,000 — on Meta for obtaining that data without adequate consent. Those fines have been piling up since August 14.

FILE – The Meta logo is seen at the Vivatech show in Paris, France, on June 14, 2023. PHOTO: AP

Meta said it has cooperated with regulators and pointed to its announced plans to give Europeans the opportunity to consent to data collection and, later this month, to offer an ad-free subscription service in Europe that will cost EUR9.99 (USD10.59) a month for access to all its products. The latest decision “unjustifiably ignores that careful and robust regulatory process,” the company said in a statement following the European board’s action.

Tobias Judin, head of the international section at the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, said Meta’s proposed steps likely won’t meet European legal standards. For instance, he said, consent would have to be freely given, which wouldn’t be the case if existing users had to choose between giving up their privacy rights or paying a financial penalty in the form of a subscription.

“Meta’s business model is at odds with the law and users’ fundamental rights, and Meta will not back down willingly,” Judin said via email. “They continue with their unlawful activities to this very day, simply because breaking the law is so profitable.”

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