In a new trial involving a small number of users in the UK, Facebook has said that it will be testing the targeting of adverts based on users’ specific political and religious beliefs.

Why?

According to Facebook, the trial will help the social media platform to process and manage its customer data, so that it will be in a better position to ensure compliance with GDPR when it comes into force in May this year.

The severity of the fines associated with the enforcement of GDPR for large companies such as Facebook e.g. a fine for a breach of up to €20 million or 4% of their global annual turnover, whichever is greater, is likely to be a big motivator behind a trial that could improve how Facebook processes and stores data.

How Could Targeting Adverts This Way Be Of Help?

The trial appears to be using adverts for consenting participants to focus on testing and improving how the company handles the required greater consent from data subjects that GDPR will bring, and to ensure that sensitive data is better protected.

One other important result of the trial will be to enable the testing of facial recognition. Facebook is exploring how it can successfully give users an opt-in for facial recognition, which will form part of a measure to stop online impersonations by informing users whenever their faces have been used elsewhere on the site.

The Trial

It has been reported that the trial will work by first asking a number of UK users for permission to allow advertisers to target them on the basis of their political and religious beliefs, and their listed interests.

It is understood that Facebook will also ask users whether they are happy for their public information that identifies them (e.g. their faith and politics) to remain visible for everyone and, if permission is given, Facebook will provide an opt-in for allowing the information to be used to personalise content, and also act as one of the signals for relevant suggesting ads. This will include targeted advertising based upon things like politics, sexuality and faith.

Worries

Some people have expressed fear that opting-in to elements of the trial could enable extremists to use targeted advertising for recruitment propaganda. Facebook has denied this.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

This story is more proof that the seriousness of the implications of GDPR is hitting home, particularly with those companies that stand to lose in a big way if they are found not to be compliant. Although the subject of targeted advertising is an emotive one that can make us feel a bit uneasy as Internet users in terms of privacy, it is at least good news that this Facebook trial could lead to better protection of our personal data by a platform that arguably knows more about us than most.

With X-day now past this story should be another reminder that its time for companies everywhere to think about double-checking that their own systems and procedures will be GDPR compliant.

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