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21 Nov 2022


UK: CSO senior fellow files lawsuit against Facebook for collecting personal data to sell adverts

"Foxglove Senior Fellow Tanya O’Carroll sues Facebook for collecting personal data to sell adverts", 21 November 2022

Facebook is the public square for a third of the planet. In many parts of the world, it essentially *is* the internet.

Yet to access its services Facebook forces us to give up every detail about ourselves and accept being tracked, constantly, across the web.

We think that’s wrong. No-one should have to surrender their privacy... to stay in touch with friends and family.

It’s also against the law. We’re proud to announce that Foxglove senior fellow Tanya O’Carroll is bringing a case under UK data protection law to put up her hand and say: enough. You can read her talking about the case in The Times here.

Surveillance adverts

Facebook tracks and profiles what we do and where we click to construct detailed digital dossiers to target us with personalised ads.

If these were just normal adverts, we wouldn’t be here.

But these are not normal ads – they’re surveillance ads, and running an advertising model this way has created a host of new problems, like a car spewing out toxic exhaust.

Facebook’s ad business relies on profiling. Tanya has calculated Facebook has 700 different categories it uses to track her.

Some of those categories are very sensitive. Facebook has historically tracked your racial background, the gender you identify with, your sexual preferences, political leanings and whether or not you have children.  Facebook claims to have leant away from some of these – but lots of other areas can be a proxy for these areas.

Advertisers use these categories to decide who to target – or who to avoid. It is a trivial task to tailor Facebook ads in a way that discriminates.

How does the case work?

UK data protection law already gives everyone the right to tell Facebook, or companies like it, to stop profiling them for ads. Under the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which the UK adopted in 2018, this is called the “right to object”.

So, the problem in getting Facebook to respect that objection. That’s where Tanya’s case comes in.

If she succeeds, it could create a precedent where if any one of us objects to Facebook creepily tracking us across the internet and tells them to stop...