New tool allows you to opt out of Facebook’s targeted advertising

After Meta (Facebook and Instagram) switched the legal basis for targeting advertising from automatic consent to opt-out, privacy watchdog noyb has built a tool for users to opt out of targeted advertising and various other claims made by Meta in an easy and legally sound way.

After losing several cases where privacy-focused organizations claimed that Meta was in violation of GDPR regulations, Meta changed the legal basis to process certain first party data in Europe from “Contractual Necessity” to “Legitimate Interests.” GDPR is the EU’s general data protection regulation which governs how the personal data of individuals in the EU may be processed and transferred.

Even in Meta’s own words the new rules shouldn’t make much of a difference:

“It is important to note that this legal change does not prevent personalized advertising on our platform, nor does it affect how advertisers, businesses or users experience our products.”

The GDPR allows the processing of personal data if a company complies with one of the six legal bases in Article 6(1) GDPR, which are almost all irrelevant for advertising, so Meta does need the user’s consent.

But, instead of switching to an “opt-in” system, like Google or Microsoft, Meta argues that its “legitimate interest” to process user data would override the fundamental right to privacy and data protection of users.

In the view of the noyb the “legitimate interest” argument has no lawful foundation, and even if it had, opting-out should be as easy as it is to opt-in. But instead of providing a simple method to opt-out, like clicking a button,  Meta requires users to fill out a hidden form. This form requires users to argue why they want to perform an opt-out and explain why Meta’s, non-public, assessment is wrong in their individual case. An action that requires a user to click all the right buttons, understand legalese, and argue their points effectively. This has been made so complicated, that noyb thinks it is highly unlikely that any normal user would be able to successfully complete this process.

This means the days in court are far from over, but in the mean time noyb created a quick and easy way for users to object to the processing in a broad way. It has created a tool that allows users to opt-out of any processing under “legitimate interest“ and generally object to the use of personal data for targeted ads.

The tool

The tool helps EU citizens to object, as a precautionary measure, under Article 21(1) and (2) of the GDPR, to any use of their personal data for alleged “Legitimate Interests” as set out in the “What is our legal basis for processing your data?” section of Meta’s Privacy Policy.

In the words of Max Schrems, co-founder and honorary chairman of noyb:

“Our form turns the table: Meta has to argue why they have an overriding interest – not the user. Users can now opt out of data processing, and Facebook must process this objection without delay. We want to make it as easy as possible for those affected to exercise their fundamental rights.”

To use the free tool, users can visit the noyb consent form for collecting the necessary information and sending it to Meta.

Next you are presented with three options.

screenshot of the 3 options

The Facebook Login option allows you to object via noyb’s servers, using your email address as a sender and verifying that you have a Facebook account via Facebook Login. You will receive a copy of the objection.

The Email Tool option is basically the same except for the fact that you don’t have to log in to Facebook. Instead you will have to provide the email address that you use for Facebook/Instagram and noyb will verify if it’s yours.

email verification mailContent of the verification email sent to users of the second option

The Email Client option provides you with an example text so you can send an objection email yourself. All you have to do is copy the text into your email client and replace <YOUR_EMAIL_ADDRESS> in two places with the email address that is linked to your Meta account(s).

Knowing Meta, it’s probably too soon to get your hopes up. But sending out that email will at least tell Meta that there are objections and users feel that this is not the way to go about their business.

Malwarebytes removes all remnants of ransomware and prevents you from getting reinfected. Want to learn more about how we can help protect your business? Get a free trial below.