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Privacy Complaint Filed Against Musk’s X for Alleged EU Rule Violation

2023.12.15

 

Key Takeaways

  • Max Schrems files a privacy complaint against X, alleging it targeted users based on sensitive data.
  • EU’s strict GDPR laws could lead to significant fines for X if the allegations are proven true.

Allegations of Unlawful Ad Targeting

Privacy advocate Max Schrems has lodged a formal complaint against Elon Musk’s X with the Dutch data protection authority. The complaint, filed by Schrems’ organization Noyb, accuses X of violating the European Union’s stringent privacy rules by using individuals’ political views and religious beliefs to target them with advertisements. This move puts X under scrutiny for potentially breaching the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

European Commission’s Involvement

The complaint also implicates the European Commission in using X for similar targeting purposes. Schrems alleges that an ad from the European Commission, which he encountered on X, was tailored based on specific political affiliations and ideologies. This ad, promoting content regulation for online child safety, reportedly excluded users affiliated with certain political parties and ideologies, thereby raising concerns about discriminatory and targeted advertising practices.

Microtargeting Concerns

The filing highlights the use of microtargeting on X, a method that tailors content based on user interaction and has been previously criticized for its role in political campaigns, such as the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. The complaint draws parallels with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, underscoring the potential misuse of sensitive user data for influencing political outcomes.

The Role of European Data Protection Authorities

The Dutch data protection authority, where the complaint was filed, is tasked with investigating these allegations. As X’s main European headquarters are in Ireland, the Irish data protection regulator typically oversees such matters. However, Schrems, being a Dutch citizen, has chosen to file the complaint in the Netherlands. The investigation’s outcome could lead to a comprehensive examination under GDPR, with significant implications for X.

GDPR Implications and Corporate Response

Under GDPR, violations can result in hefty fines, up to 4% of a company’s global annual revenue. This complaint comes at a challenging time for X, which has recently seen major brands like Apple, Disney, and Microsoft withdraw advertisements due to controversies surrounding Musk’s leadership and content policies. The European Commission has acknowledged the issue and is reportedly reviewing its advertising strategies on X in light of recent increases in disinformation and hate speech on social media platforms.

 


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