Meta will finally do the unthinkable and let Facebook and Instagram users opt out of user-tracking, which services like Facebook and Google use to serve highly targeted ads. That marks the first time Meta is willing to allow users to avoid tracking on its own platforms. But there are a few big caveats.
First, Meta will only let Facebook and Instagram users in Europe opt out of tracking. Secondly, Meta will only allow users to opt out after they submit an online form expressing their objections to Meta’s tracking of in-app activity ads. Meta will then evaluate the user’s request and possibly implement the change.
That’s all according to The Wall Street Journal‘s sources, which are said to be familiar with Meta’s plans.
Meta is only taking such action in Europe for one reason. It’s because the European Union is forcing the social media giant to give customers in the region the option to object to Facebook and Instagram tracking. And the EU is forcing Meta’s hand via hefty fines.
The latest big fine dropped in early January. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission fined Facebook and Instagram a total of around $423 million for requiring users to agree to a contract that includes behavioral ads.
These are targeted ads that Meta delivers after analyzing a user’s activity on Facebook and Instagram. That activity might include Facebook posts that a user comments on. Or videos on Instagram a person watches.
As the WSJ reports, Meta allowed Facebook users to avoid tracking on other websites and apps. And Apple forced Meta to ask all iPhone and iPad users for consent to collect user data. But this marks the first time Meta will enable the opt-out feature in its main apps.
Unfortunately, Meta is doing everything it can to prevent users from opting out while seemingly giving them a way out:
Users who wish to opt out will have to submit an online form objecting to Meta’s use of their in-app activity for ads, and the company will then evaluate any user’s objection before implementing the change, the people said. That could limit the effect of the change to Meta’s advertising business, and fall short of satisfying at least some regulators and privacy activists.
Moreover, the WSJ says Meta’s approach could spark additional complaints in the region. That is, Meta isn’t asking for explicit consent for user tracking on Facebook and Instagram. It’s offering a cumbersome opt-out procedure.
That said, Facebook and Instagram users in Europe should opt out of Meta tracking no matter how difficult the process might be.