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Meta fined $414 million in EU for requiring personalized ads

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp may have to change their ad practices.

Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Meta is facing yet another European Union fine. As hinted last month, EU authorities are fining Meta €390 million (about $414 million) after determining that the company illegally required that Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp users accept personalized ads. The social media giant allegedly violated the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by asking for permission to collect ad targeting data in its terms of service — you have to either allow personalized ads or stop using the platforms altogether, according to regulators.

The EU didn't say how it expected Meta to obey the decision. However, the wording suggests Meta will have to let users choose whether or not they accept personalized ads. In a statement, Meta said it was "disappointed" by the ruling and felt its existing approach "respects" the GDPR. The firm plans to appeal the findings.

The resistance isn't surprising. Meta has historically opposed attempts to decline personalized ads, and predicted that Apple's App Tracking Transparency (which lets you ask apps not to track you) could cost it $10 billion in lost ad revenue last year. Users behind proposed class action lawsuits have even accused Meta of trying to dodge Apple's privacy feature by inserting tracking code through the in-app web browser. If Meta loses its appeal, it risks losing a significant amount of revenue as people see fewer ads they're likely to click.

It's doubtful the EU will back down, however. Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC), which regulates Meta's EU activity, has repeatedly fined the company in the past year and a half. The DPC slapped Meta with a €405 million ($402 million) fine over Instagram's child privacy settings in September, and in November issued a €265 million ($277 million) penalty for reportedly failing to protect users against data scraping. Officials want Meta to change its ways, and this latest ruling only adds to the pressure.