Meta targeted in privacy complaints by EU consumer groups

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Meta Platforms' business group is seen in Brussels

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Meta Platforms was hit with privacy complaints on Thursday as eight EU consumer groups asked watchdogs to act against the Facebook owner for alleged breaches of the bloc's privacy rules when it collects user data.

The complaints by consumer groups in the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain to data protection authorities in their countries add to previous grievances over Meta's trove of user data.

The consumer bodies said Meta is not complying with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules on fair processing, data minimisation and purpose limitation, with no legal basis to the company's data collection and processing.

"Surveillance-based business models pose all kinds of problems under the GDPR and it's time for data protection authorities to stop Meta's unfair data processing and its infringing of people’s fundamental rights," Ursula Pachl, deputy director general of the European Consumer Organisation, said in a statement.

She also criticised Meta's recent launch of paid, advertisement-free subscriptions to Facebook and Instagram in Europe, which the company said aims to comply with new EU tech rules.

Critics say this amounts to users having to pay for their privacy. Users who do not mind advertisments can continue to use the services free of charge.

"Meta's offer to consumers is smoke and mirrors to cover up what is, at its core, the same old hoovering up of all kinds of sensitive information about people's lives, which it then monetises through its invasive advertising model," Pachl said.

Meta said its subscription changes are a response to regulatory actions and court rulings.

"Subscription for no ads addresses the latest regulatory developments, guidance and judgments shared by leading European regulators and the courts over recent years," a Meta spokesperson said.

"Specifically, it conforms to direction given by the highest court in Europe: in July, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) endorsed the subscriptions model as a way for people to consent to data processing for personalised advertising."

(Reporting by Foo Yun CheeEditing by Lincoln Feast and David Goodman)