Facebook’s political microtargeting practices are once again in the spotlight, with the social media giant facing multiple complaints under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Germany. The complaints allege that Facebook’s microtargeting tools have been used to influence political campaigns, which violates GDPR regulations.
According to the complaints filed by digital rights group NOYB (None of Your Business), Facebook’s political microtargeting practices allow political parties to send tailored political messages to specific groups of voters based on their personal data. The complaints allege that this practice violates GDPR regulations that require users to give explicit consent for the use of their personal data for political advertising purposes.
NOYB founder Max Schrems said in a statement, “Facebook’s handling of political ads is a threat to our democracy. Voters are being targeted with tailored political messages without their consent. This is not only illegal, but it also undermines the principles of our democratic society.”
Facebook has faced criticism for its microtargeting practices before, with allegations that the company has been used to spread misinformation and manipulate elections. In 2018, the Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that the political consulting firm had obtained data from millions of Facebook users without their consent and used it to influence the 2016 US presidential election.
In response to the complaints, Facebook stated that it has made significant changes to its ad transparency and political advertising policies to ensure that they comply with GDPR regulations. The company also stated that it is working closely with regulators and political stakeholders to ensure that its platform is not misused for political purposes.
“We take our responsibility to protect people’s information and the integrity of the democratic process very seriously. That’s why we’ve made significant changes to the way we manage political ads and have introduced unprecedented transparency measures,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
The complaints against Facebook come ahead of the German federal election in September, which is expected to be highly contested. The use of microtargeting tools in political campaigns has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, with political parties and campaigns using sophisticated algorithms to identify and target specific voter groups with tailored messages.
The complaints against Facebook highlight the need for stronger regulation of microtargeting practices in political advertising. The GDPR was introduced in 2018 to protect the privacy rights of EU citizens and ensure that companies like Facebook handle personal data responsibly. However, the complaints against Facebook suggest that more needs to be done to prevent the misuse of personal data for political purposes.
As the use of digital technology in political campaigns continues to grow, it is crucial that regulators and lawmakers take action to ensure that citizens’ privacy rights are protected, and democratic processes are not undermined by the misuse of personal data.