New European Commission Directive Threatens Facebook's Targeted Ads

Pulkit Chandna

Where data is concerned, there are few companies that even come close to rivaling the size of Facebook’s data reserves, constantly replenished by a ceaseless stream of Likes and much more. But as they often say, with large amounts of data comes great responsibility. And that is where the European Commission (EC) seems to have a problem with the world’s largest social network.

The European Commission has a problem with the amount of data Facebook stores and the way the said data is then made available to advertisers for targeted ad campaigns. According to the UK’s The Telegraph , a soon-to-be introduced EC directive will prohibit all such targeted advertising that is done without the explicit approval of users.

An investigation by the paper has revealed that Facebook does not limit its data collection to just personal details and Likes, but also “gathers details about their friends, family and educational background and detects subtle changes to their lifestyle, enabling it, for example, to target a bride-to-be with advertising for wedding photographers.”

The UK paper further says that the social networking site has other much more worrying data collection habits like storing messages and chats even when they have been deleted by the FB users involved. However, the company in its defense says that this information is not used for advertising purposes.

"I call on service providers – especially social media sites – to be more transparent about how they operate,” Viviane Reding, the vice president of European Commission, told the paper. “Users must know what data is collected and further processed (and) for what purposes.”

"Consumers in Europe should see their data strongly protected, regardless of the EU country they live in and regardless of the country in which companies which process their personal data are established."

A spokesperson for the social network issued the following statement:

"We understand that people share a lot of information on Facebook and we take this very seriously. We believe ads that are relevant, social and personalised based on your real interests are better.

"We can show relevant ads in a way that respects individual privacy because our system only provides advertisers with anonymous and aggregate information for the purpose of targeting ads. We do not share people's names with an advertiser without a person's explicit consent and we never sell personal information to third parties.

"There is no connection between the privacy settings people choose and our advertising. Whether you use your privacy settings to keep your profile very private, or very public, everyone sees the same amount of advertising down the right hand side of the page.

"Adverts are personalised to the individual user. We do not track peoples' behaviour to serve advertising."

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