European Court of Justice Declares Meta’s GDPR Approach Largely Illegal

Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch:

In its February 2019 order, the [Federal Cartel Office of Germany] told Facebook (as Meta still was back then) to stop combining data on users across its own suite of social platforms without their consent. Meta sought to block the order in the German courts — eventually sparking the referral on Meta’s so-called “superprofiling” to the CJEU in March 2021.

Now we have the top court’s take and, well, it’s not going to spark any celebrations at Meta HQ, that’s for sure.

The Court made avilable a press release (PDF) with the history of this case and its conclusion. It sounds like Meta tried to argue that showing personalized and targeted advertising was a core function of its services and in their interest; thus, it argued, it did not need explicit consent to collect their information. German regulators laughed at Meta, Meta got offended and asked E.U. regulators to put Germany in their place; instead, they put Meta in its place. European privacy activist group None Of Your Business is pleased with the finding, noting how it ought to set a precedent against these creative interpretations of the law.

As with App Tracking Transparency, I am finding it difficult to sympathize with Meta’s position. If their business model cannot sustain explicit user consent, then it is built on a fraudulent premise.

Javier Espinoza, Financial Times:

The EU court on Tuesday stressed the importance of authorities co-operating with each other and proposed a law that would allow regulators to share information about fines earlier in any investigation into a privacy breach.

“This will facilitate consensus-building and reduce the likelihood of disagreements,” said a document shown to the Financial Times. This comes after a dispute over how much Meta should have been fined for privacy breaches by regulators.

European privacy regulators have dealt with growing pains in trying to adapt and unify GDPR interpretations, but it sure looks like it is paying off.