Meta Logo

Rights campaigner sues Meta over advertising practices

Image credit: Pixabay

The activist argues that people have the right to use Facebook without the company profiling them for advertising purposes, in a case that could set a precedent for social media engines.

Human rights campaigner Tanya O'Carroll has filed a lawsuit against Meta with the UK High Court, challenging Facebook's surveillance advertising practices. 

O'Carroll, who is being represented by data rights agency AWO, reportedly sued the company after Facebook refused to respect her right to object to being profiled and her data being used for advertising purposes.

“We shouldn’t have to give up every detail of our personal lives just to connect with friends and family online," O'Carroll said. "The law gives us the right to take back control over our personal data and stop Facebook surveilling and tracking us.”

In her filing, the campaigner has asked the Court to enforce unqualified "rights to object" under GDPR, arguing that, under the data protection legislation currently in force, people have the right to use Facebook without being surveilled and profiled. 

Despite the UK's exit from the European Union, the bloc's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act are still binding pieces of legislation in Britain, as they have been since its adoption in 2018. 

Therefore, although the case is being brought by an individual data subject in the UK, AWO believes that a win could set a legal precedent for millions of search engine/social media users in the UK and EU.

“Meta is straining to concoct legal arguments to deny [that] our client even has this right. But Tanya’s claim is straightforward; it will hopefully breathe life back into the rights we are all guaranteed under the GDPR,” said Ravi Naik, O'Carroll's representative at data rights agency AWO.  

In 2020, the UK’s competition regulator, Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), called on the government to introduce a new pro-competition regulatory regime to tackle Google and Facebook’s market power.

At the time, the CMA's report found that the social media company “uses default settings to nudge people into using their services and giving up their data”, including a requirement to accept personalised advertising as a condition for using the service.

The regulator found that only a small minority of users (13 per cent) were happy to share their data in return for relevant ads. 

“This case is really about us all being able to connect with social media on our own terms, and without having to essentially accept that we should be subjected to hugely invasive tracking surveillance profiling just to be able to access social media," O’Carroll told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

“This is where our daily politics, our access to news and information, public debate, as well as our ability to connect with family and friends, all play out, and Facebook has made the condition for accessing that global public square that we all subject ourselves to surveillance.

“So, with this case, I’m really using this right that’s long been there on the law books, but has been up until now not been exercised, which is to simply say ‘I object’, and if we are successful in that then everybody will have that right.”

In September 2022, the UK government revealed its plans to introduce a new Data Reform Bill, which is expected to increase fines for nuisance calls and texts, allow for a digital births and deaths registry in England and Wales, and facilitate the flow and use of personal data for law enforcement and national security purposes, among other changes.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles