European Commission Targets Facebook’s Targeted Ads

Facebook is facing more regulatory fire in Europe over how the company collects and uses members’ personal information.

The Telegraph reported that the European Commission will issue a directive in January banning targeted advertising based on data the social network is able to collect on users’ location, politics, sexuality, religious beliefs, and other criteria, unless the users grant permission.

EC Vice President Viviane Reding told The Telegraph the directive would amend current European data protection laws in order to ensure consistency across the European Union, adding:

I call on service providers — especially social media sites — to be more transparent about how they operate. Users must know what data are 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 that process their personal data are established.

The Telegraph also reported that the EU’s data protection working party plans to meet this week to discuss an audit of Facebook’s practices currently being conducted by the data protection watchdog in Ireland, site of Facebook’s international headquarters. The group will focus on behavioral and targeted advertising, according to the newspaper.

A spokesman for the U.K. information commissioner told The Telegraph:

Facebook should ensure that any data it collects should be used in the manner that its users expect.

A Facebook spokesman responded:

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 personalized 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 personalized to the individual user. We do not track peoples’ behavior to serve advertising.

Readers: Do you think the European Commission directive will cause a significant change to how Facebook operates in the European Union?

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