Meta halts plans to train AI on Facebook and Instagram posts in the EU

Meta has apparently paused its plans to process reams of user data to bring new AI experiences to Europe.

The decision comes after data regulators rejected the tech giant’s claims that it had “legitimate interests” in processing the data of Facebook and Instagram users from the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA), including posts and personal images, to train future artificial intelligence tools. .

There is not much information available yet about Meta’s decision. But Meta’s EU regulator, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), published a statement confirming that Meta took the action after ongoing discussions with the DPC over compliance with the EU’s strict data privacy laws. EU, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“The DPC welcomes Meta’s decision to pause its plans to train its big language model using public content shared by adults on Facebook and Instagram across the EU/EEA,” the DPC said. “This decision followed intensive engagement between the DPC and Meta. The DPC, in cooperation with its EU data protection authorities, will continue to engage with Meta on this matter.”

The European Center for Digital Rights, known as Noyb, had filed 11 complaints across the EU and intended to file more to prevent Meta from moving forward with its AI plans. The DPC initially gave Meta AI the green light to continue, but it has now done a 180-degree turn, Noyb said.

Meta policy still requires updating

In a blog post, Meta had previously teased new AI features coming to the EU, including everything from custom stickers for chats and stories to Meta AI, a “virtual assistant you can access to answer questions, generate images, and more.” Meta had argued that training on the personal data of EU users was necessary so that AI services could reflect “the diverse cultures and languages ​​of the European communities that will use them.”

Before the pause, the company hoped to rely “on the legal basis of ‘legitimate interests'” to process the data, because it is necessary “to improve AI at Meta.” But Noyb and EU data regulators had argued that Meta’s legal basis did not comply with the GDPR, and the Norwegian Data Protection Authority argued that “the most natural thing would have been to ask users for their consent before their publications and images are used in This way.”

However, instead of asking for consent, Meta had given EU users until June 26 to opt out. Noyb had alleged that by pursuing this path, Meta planned to use “dark patterns” to thwart the EU’s AI opt-out and collect as much data as possible to push undisclosed AI technologies. Noyb urgently argued that once user data is in the system, “users appear to have no option to delete it.”

Noyb said the “obvious explanation” for Meta apparently halting its plans was pushback from EU officials, but the privacy advocacy group also warned EU users that Meta’s privacy policy still has not been fully updated to reflect the hiatus.

“We welcome this development, but will follow it closely,” Max Schrems, president of Noyb, said in a statement provided to Ars. “At this time there is no official change to Meta’s privacy policy, which would make this commitment legally binding. The cases we filed are ongoing and will need determination.”

Ars could not immediately reach Meta for comment.

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