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LGBTQ data no-go for personalised online ads: EU adviser

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Internet users’ public expression of their sexual orientation does not authorise using this data “for the purposes of personalised advertising,” a legal adviser at the EU’s top court said Thursday.

Austria’s Supreme Court referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) based on a case brought by Austrian internet privacy activist Max Schrems against the US giant Meta, owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Schrems contested the processing of his data, “which he considers to be unlawful”, saying he “regularly received advertisements directed at homosexuals and invitations to corresponding events”, the CJEU said in a statement.

In his conclusion, CJEU Advocate General Athanasios Rantos found that even though Schrems publicly referred to his sexual orientation during a panel discussion, social networks cannot use this for targeted advertising.

Rantos also called on the national court to assess “the extent to which the data retention period and the amount of data processed are justified”, based on the principle of proportionality and other criteria.

Privacy campaign group NOYB (None Of Your Business), founded by Schrems, welcomed Rantos’s opinion.

“This issue is highly relevant for anyone who makes a public statement,” Schrems’s lawyer Katharina Raabe-Stuppnig said, urging the CJEU to follow the advocate general’s opinion to avoid a “chill” on online speech.

The advocate general’s advice is not binding on the court but it is seen as influential and generally followed by judges.

“Meta has basically been building a huge data pool on users for 20 years now, and it is growing every day. EU law, however, requires ‘data minimisation,'” Raabe-Stuppnig added.

“If the court follows the opinion, only a small part of this pool will be allowed to be used for advertising.”

Vienna-based NOYB has launched a myriad of legal cases against internet giants such as Meta.

The group started work in 2018, at the same time as the European Union implemented its landmark General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), legislation aimed at making it simpler for people to control how companies use their personal information.


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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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