Meta Delays AI Rollout in EU Amid Privacy Concerns

Giuseppe de vita

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Social media giant Meta has delayed the launch of its new artificial intelligence (AI) agenda in the European Union following objections in several Member States that the company was abusing users’ profile data.

Meta, the parent company of some of the world’s largest social media platforms, prepared to implement a new privacy policy on 26 June. It would permit it to use years of its users’ public data, including individual details, photos, posts and statements, to teach its AI program that could, for example, render text and images or answer user queries.

However, the company has now revealed it will be postponing the rollout of this software. This judgment follows a series of complaints ensconced in Europe about the AI initiative and the lack of information obtained by users.

What Are the Complaints Against Meta’s New Privacy Policy?

Prominent Austrian privacy advocate, Max Schrems, via his NGO ‘None of Your Business’ (Noyb), filed complaints objecting to Meta’s plans in 11 European countries including Belgium last week. Noyb criticised the social network corporation’s new privacy guidelines and contended that Meta operates a ‘misleading and complicated’ opt-out model rather than pursuing explicit consent (opt-in) for personal data usage.

Later in the week, the consumer protection association Test Achats filed a complaint with the Belgian Data Protection Authority against Meta’s new privacy policy. It claimed that users are not properly notified about it and cannot effectively exercise their right to object.

How Did Privacy Advocates Influence Meta’s AI Decision?

According to the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), where Meta’s European headquarters are housed, there has been ‘intense communication’ between the controller and the corporation concerning the new policy. It now asked that Meta temporarily suspend the use of European data in the AI models.

Without ‘local information’, Meta signifies the roll-out of its new AI services would deliver a ‘second-rate experience’. Consequently, they selected against launching Meta AI, a competitor to the likes of OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT, in Europe for now.

Meta explained this as a ‘setback for European innovation and competitiveness in AI development’. The corporation also stressed that its approach complies with ‘European laws and regulations’ and claims to be more evident than other industry players. In a brief response, the DPC welcomed Meta’s decision.

Critics argue that most people will likely have assumed the changes without blinking an eye, nyob cautioned that the changes pose threats to their privacy. It appears the company intends to use years of personal posts, private images or online quest data for an undefined ‘AI technology’ that can take personal data from any reference and share any information with undefined ‘third parties’.

“Meta is stating 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’,” nyob’s Max Schrems expressed. Users aren’t given any details about the purposes of the “AI technology” – which according to nyob is against the requirements of the GDPR.

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Giuseppe De Vita is a journalist at Brussels Morning News, He is covering European politics, Law and Technology news. Lawyer at De Vita & Partners Law Firm specializing in Criminal Law, Military and Space Law, and Cyber Security. In April 2023, he authored the monograph "Governance in Extraterrestrial Space", showcasing his extensive legal expertise. He has acquired vast experience in handling criminal and civil matters, managing litigation before various levels of jurisdiction across the national territory. In 2010, he obtained a Master's degree in Information Technology Law. Additionally, in the same year, he served as a teacher in criminal-IT subjects at the Penitentiary Police School of Portici, providing courses aimed at officials and managers of the Penitentiary Police and the Penitentiary Administration, focusing on IT security. He also serves as a Workplace Safety teacher, conducting training courses at various organizations and educational institutions. Moreover, he is a lecturer on Anti-Corruption and Transparency. The law firm, under his guidance, assists both private and corporate clients in court, accumulating significant experience in criminal and civil disputes over the years. Furthermore, it conducts Risk Management and Compliance, Cyber Resilience, and Cyber Security activities, with a specific focus on privacy protection (EU Regulation 2016/679 - GDPR). Giuseppe frequently publishes articles in legal journals, analyzing various regulatory issues. He has contributed articles to the legal journal Altalex, of which he is also a member of the Scientific Committee.