GDPR Investigation on Facebook’s Audience Targeting Methods


Facebook is confronted with the wrath of EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) once more after the UK Information Commissioner Office (ICO) made a complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) regarding Facebook’s user targeting strategies.

Facebook had been heavily criticized recently after several news reporters showed how simple and easy it was to publish fake ads that seem to be sponsored/funded by actual political figures. Other reports even targeted people with particularly conservative views and sentiments.

The Irish Data Protection Commission is the pertinent agency that investigates the complaint since the Facebook European head office is located in Dublin. DPC Communications spokesperson Graham Doyle said that DPC will evaluate the issue once it receives the referral and will decide the next necessary steps.

ICO submitted a 113-page report to the British Parliament, which mentioned that a number of outstanding issues against Facebook, including its user targeting features, tactics used to keep track of the browsing habits of individuals, behavior and interactions online and various devices, are still under investigation and will be referred to the Irish Data Protection Commission .

ICO Head Elizabeth Denham explained to the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that Facebook should change substantially their business model and their methods to preserve trust. There were discoveries of worrisome disregard for the personal privacy of voters. As a result, social media platforms, data brokers, political parties and credit reference organizations are beginning to doubt their own procedures impacting the big data eco-system.

Before introducing the GDPR on May 25 this year, ICO issued a £500,000 fine on Facebook last month with regards to its involvement with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. During the time this was the greatest penalty allowed by the British Data Protection Act 1998. Under the new GDPR, this amount can be a lot higher with the maximum fine of €20 million or 4% of yearly global earnings, whichever amount is greater. Facebook could have been fined approximately £17 million as Facebook’s total earnings was €35.41 billion/£30.9bn.

Facebook reacted to the news through a representative who explained FB’s approach to audience targeting. FB routinely engages with government bodies concerning their advertising tools, which are deemed fully compliant with EU data protection regulations. Facebook also explained that some people might attempt to play with the disclaimer system by inputting wrong details. FB is still improving the review process to identify and stop this sort of abuse.

This is the most recent news about Facebook since the launch of GDPR. In September it was uncovered that around 50 million users of Facebook might have had their personal privacy violated during a cyber attack that gave a hacker access to the databases. This appeared after it was mentioned that user levels on the social platform fell considerably after the GDPR was introduced in May 25.