Home Meta delays AI launch in Europe as it faces complaints over data protection

Meta delays AI launch in Europe as it faces complaints over data protection


  • Meta postponed its AI launch in Europe after the Irish regulator's request to delay data use from users.
  • The decision follows privacy concerns and objections from advocacy groups like NOYB regarding GDPR compliance.
  • Meta emphasized the need to train AI on European data but faced criticism for auto-opting users into AI training.

Meta has postponed the launch of its AI models in Europe following guidance from Ireland’s privacy regulators to delay its plans to use data from Facebook and Instagram users, according to the U.S. social media company’s announcement on Friday.

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) requested that the tech giant delay training its large language model on behalf of the European data protection authorities. Meta said on its site that it was “disappointed” by the decision.

“This is a step backwards for European innovation, competition in AI development and further delays bringing the benefits of AI to people in Europe,” the company said.

In reply, Irish authorities “The DPC welcomes the decision by Meta to pause its plans to train its large language model using public content shared by adults on Facebook and Instagram across the EU/EEA,” the Irish regulator responded. “This decision followed intensive engagement between the DPC and Meta. The DPC, in cooperation with its fellow EU data protection authorities, will continue to engage with Meta on this issue,” it continued.

Complaints against Meta AI over data protection

The decision to delay its AI model launch in Europe was due to objections and a plea from the advocacy group NOYB (“none of your business”) last week to data protection authorities in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Spain to intervene against the company.

NOYB’s chair Max Schrems said: “Meta is basically saying that it can use ‘any data from any source for any purpose and make it available to anyone in the world’, as long as it’s done via ‘AI technology’. This is clearly the opposite of GDPR compliance. ‘AI technology’ is an extremely broad term.”

In a subsequent update following the decision, Schrems added: “We welcome this development, but will monitor this closely. So far there is no official change of the Meta privacy policy, which would make this commitment legally binding. The cases we filed are ongoing and will need a determination.”

The U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) also asked Meta to stop its plans until it addressed the concerns raised. Stephen Almond, Executive Director, Regulatory Risk at the ICO, added: “In order to get the most out of generative AI and the opportunities it brings, it is crucial that the public can trust that their privacy rights will be respected from the outset.”

Meta points finger at other tech companies

Meta argued that to serve its European communities, its AI model would need to be trained on relevant information that reflects the “diverse languages, geography and cultural references of the people in Europe who will use them.

“To do this, we want to train our large language models that power AI features using the content that people in the EU have chosen to share publicly on Meta’s products and services.”

The company contended that it was not the first company to use data from European users to train AI. The social network claimed it was following the example set by others such as Google and OpenAI.

Meta was criticized for automatically opting in all of its users for its AI training last month. NOYB said that Meta would need “some 400 million European users to ‘object’, instead of asking for their consent.”

Featured image: Canva

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Suswati Basu
Tech journalist

Suswati Basu is a multilingual, award-winning editor and the founder of the intersectional literature channel, How To Be Books. She was shortlisted for the Guardian Mary Stott Prize and longlisted for the Guardian International Development Journalism Award. With 18 years of experience in the media industry, Suswati has held significant roles such as head of audience and deputy editor for NationalWorld news, digital editor for Channel 4 News and ITV News. She has also contributed to the Guardian and received training at the BBC As an audience, trends, and SEO specialist, she has participated in panel events alongside Google. Her…

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