Woman sues Facebook for collecting personal data to target adverts

A human rights campaigner is suing Facebook’s owner in the high court, claiming the company is disregarding her right to object against the collection of her personal data.

Tanya O’Carroll has launched a lawsuit against Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta alleging it has breached UK data laws by failing to respect her right to demand Facebook stop collecting and processing her data. Facebook generates revenue from building profiles of users and matching them with advertisers who direct ads at people targeting their specific interests and backgrounds.

O’Carroll told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “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, a senior fellow at Foxglove, a UK legal campaign group that focuses on accountability in the technology industry, is claiming that Facebook has breached article 21 (2) of UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which gives individuals the right to protest against the processing of their personal data for marketing purposes. O’Carroll said a successful case could set a precedent for millions of Facebook, social media and search engine users.

“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,” she told the BBC.

O’Carroll has lodged a claim in the high court and is awaiting Meta’s acknowledgment of the claim and confirmation that the company intends to defend it, followed by a hearing and court judgment. O’Carroll is not seeking damages but a yes/no decision on whether she can opt out of being profiled for advertising purposes.

A Meta spokesperson said: “We know that privacy is important to our users and we take this seriously. That’s why we build tools like privacy check-up and ads preferences, where we explain what data people have shared and show how they can exercise control over the type of ads they see.”

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Dan Milmo Global technology editor