Here are European Guidelines on the Targeting of Social Media Users: Data Privacy Trends

Even with two posts a day, so many stories, so little time.  Here’s one I’ve been wanting to cover for nearly a week.  Rob Robinson’s excellent Complex Discovery site not only has great surveys and data compilations, it also covers other publications and articles that relate to the industry, as well.  Last Friday, ComplexD covered recently published European guidelines on the targeting of social media users.

The guidelines come from the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), which is an independent European body that contributes to the consistent application of data protection rules throughout the European Union, and promotes cooperation between the EU’s data protection authorities. Recently, having regard to Article 70(1)(e) of Regulation 2016/679/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of April 27 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC, the EDPB adopted guidelines on the targeting of social media users. Those guidelines were adopted earlier this month (on September 2nd), for public consultation.

According to the EDPB guidelines, the term “targeter” is used to designate natural or legal persons that use social media services in order to direct specific messages at a set of social media users on the basis of specific parameters or criteria. What sets targeters apart from other social media users is that they select their messages and/or their intended audience according to the perceived characteristics, interests, or preferences of the individuals concerned, a practice which is sometimes also referred to as “micro-targeting.” Targeters can engage in targeting to advance commercial, political, or other interests.

As part of their business model, many social media providers offer targeting services. Targeting services make it possible for “targeters” to communicate specific messages to the users of social media in order to advance commercial, political, or other interests. A distinguishing characteristic of targeting is the perceived fit between the person or group being targeted and the message that is being delivered. The underlying assumption is that the better the fit, the higher the reception rate (conversion), and thus the more effective the targeting campaign (return on investment).  Needless to say, mechanisms to target social media users have increased in sophistication over time and, increasingly, targeting criteria are also developed on the basis of personal data which has been observed or inferred, either by the social media provider or by third parties, and collected (aggregated) by the platform or by other actors (e.g., data brokers) to support ad-targeting options.

Last month, I talked about this and the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms as the reason why you often see ads for a retailer continue to pop up as you surf the net.  As long as you’re logged into Facebook or other social media platforms in the background, every site you visit continues to be logged – which is why you tend to see ads in these platforms for products you’ve checked out online (or others related to them).  And, it’s why companies pay plenty of good money to advertise in these social media platforms.  Ah, it’s a profit deal!

From EDBP’s perspective and others, the combination and analysis of data originating from different sources, together with the potentially sensitive nature of personal data processed in the context of social media, creates risks to the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals. Many risks relate to the possible lack of transparency and user control of their data.  Hence the need for guidelines to address these risks, which EDBP has now created.  It appears that Max Schrems isn’t the only European who has a “bone to pick” with social media providers!  Let’s see if the EDPB can be as successful.

You can read the complete EDPD Guidelines 8/2020 on the Targeting of Social Media Users (37 page PDF file) on the ComplexD site here, along with additional commentary regarding the guidelines.

Also, just a reminder that on Wednesday, October 7th, ACEDS will conduct the webinar “Zooming” into 2021 with Audio/Video Discovery, sponsored by Nexidia at 1pm ET (noon CT, 10am PT).  In this presentation, join Brett Burney, Principal of Burney Consultants LLC, Ashley Griggs, Director of Legal Markets at Nexidia and me to learn how to address the trends and challenges of audio/video discovery in 2021 and beyond!

So, what do you think?  Do you think that social media sites are capturing too much of your data and do you think similar guidelines are needed in the US and other parts of the world?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the authors and speakers themselves, and do not necessarily represent the views held by my employer, my partners or my clients. eDiscovery Today is made available solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Today should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

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