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Meta faces complaints in 11 countries over data use for AI

Social media applications are displayed on an iPhone.
Social media applications are displayed on an iPhone. Copyright Jenny Kane/AP
Copyright Jenny Kane/AP
By Cynthia Kroet
Published on
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Additional complaints will follow, according to Austrian privacy group NOYB.

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Austrian privacy advocates NOYB today (6 June) lodged complaints in 11 European countries alleging Meta is seeking to use its platform users' personal data to train artificial intelligence models.

The legal action comes after Meta updated its privacy policy asking to take all public and non-public user data – with the exception of chats between individuals – that it has collected since 2007 and use it for current and future "artificial intelligence technology", NOYB said.

The Big Tech company said in a statement last week that it would begin notifying people in the UK and EU about how it will use "public information they have shared on Meta's products and services to develop and improve AI at Meta within their respective privacy laws”.  

According to NOYB, users aren't given any information about the purposes of the "AI technology", which is against the requirements of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). To process personal data in the EU, companies will have to rely on one of the six legal bases under the GDPR such as opt-in consent.

"Meta is basically saying that it can use 'any data from any source for any purpose and make it available to anyone in the world', as long as it’s done via 'AI technology'. This is clearly the opposite of GDPR compliance. 'AI technology' is an extremely broad term. Much like 'using your data in databases', it has no real legal limit,” said Max Schrems, lawyer at NOYB. 

Meta said that it's "committed to developing AI responsibly" and a core part of that is "ensuring that our approach complies with local privacy laws."

Because Meta's policy will take effect on 26 June, NOYB has requested an "urgency procedure" under the EU’s data protection rules. It claims the change is worrying because it involves the personal data of about 4 billion Meta users. 

The complaints have been filed with privacy watchdogs in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Spain, and complainants for other EU countries are following in the coming days. 

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) told Euronews Next last week that “Meta delayed the launch following a number [of] enquiries from the DPC which have been addressed”. Meta gave users four weeks' notice ahead of the initial training, the DPC said.

Meta has its own large language model called Llama, the latest version of which (Llama 3) was released in April and is used to power its assistant Meta AI, which isn’t available in Europe yet.

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