The EU Just Shivved Facebook and I Can't Stop Smiling

Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP

The EU just slapped Facebook parent company Meta with a nearly half-billion-dollar fine, but that’s the least of the company’s worries in Europe.

Mark Zuckerberg’s data-hoovering social media colossus will have to write the EU a $413-million check for violating user privacy in EU member countries. For a company that made nearly $40 billion in 2021 alone, even a fine as large as that — which Meta will certainly contest — won’t force the company to change its ways.


“More significantly,” reports France24, “European regulators dismissed the legal basis Meta had used to justify gathering users’ personal data for use in targeted advertising.”

What does that mean when translated into English from the original Euroese?

What it means is this: Meta will no longer be allowed to use its data-hoovering techniques to target high-priced ads at Europe’s 400-plus million Facebook users. Instead, the company will eventually have to rely on less-targeted ads that generate less revenue.

Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities called it a “gut punch” and estimated that the EU’s privacy ruling could cut 5-7% off the company’s bottom line.

“Meta and its investors should be ready: the privacy-invasive targeted-ads business model is slowly but surely ending,” Estelle Masse of NGO Access Now told AFP.

European sources agree that the company’s way forward is to provide users with a simple “yes/no” button indicating whether they will allow their data to be used for targeted ads. The problem is that, given the choice, the vast majority of users say No, Non, Nein, Ne, Nee, Nej, Nie, Nem.

Apple introduced a different privacy measure on its iOS and iPad mobile operating systems in 2021. The new feature allows users to opt in or out of cross-app data tracking, which companies like Meta had used to track people — and hoover up their most personal data — even when they were using apps other than Facebook.


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Hardly anyone opted in, and Meta estimated that Apple’s move cost them $10 billion in 2022. That’s more than 20 times more money than the EU fine just handed down.

So it might be fair to ask me, “VodkaPundit, if Apple is already protecting users’ privacy and costing Meta so much money, why is the EU decision such a big deal?”

Facebook EU Ruling

I’m glad you asked, imaginary voice in my head, because I can tell you exactly why.

Cross-app tracking is a big deal because it happened behind users’ backs, generating billions for Meta in what privacy advocates consider ill-gotten gains.

Imagine, for example, a woman is using a cycle-tracking app to help determine the best time to get pregnant. What she doesn’t know is that Meta and the developer of her cycle app have a backroom arrangement to share data.

Every time our hypothetical woman inputs her most intimate data into one app, it gets shared, invisibly, with Meta. She never consented, she might never have even known such a thing was possible. And yet there her intimate data is, on Meta’s servers, to be used in whatever way they wish.

Apple put a stop to that, which is great, but there’s still a big loophole — one the EU is seeking to close.

Whatever data you put into an app is basically owned by the developer. Meta collects everything… and I do mean everything. Your contacts, how you interact with them, the places you visit, and the ratings you give. They analyze your photos and tease out every bit of data from them, including facial recognition, even of non-Facebook users, whom Meta then also profiles.


That’s all to display sneakily effective ads or, worse, to sell or provide all that data to whoever wants it.

What the EU is saying is that Meta might be able to collect all that data, but at least within the confines of the EU, they won’t be allowed to do much with it. And since the EU is also working on a law mandating that Meta’s EU data must be stored on servers located on EU soil, they’ll probably be able to make the decision stick.

This is the tip of a dagger ready to slide like a shiv through Meta’s ribs, right to the very heart of the company’s business model.

And I can’t stop smiling.


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