Meta uses “dark patterns” to thwart AI opt-outs in EU, complaint says

Meta uses “dark patterns” to thwart AI opt-outs in EU, complaint says

The European Center for Digital Rights, known as Noyb, has filed complaints in 11 European countries to halt Meta’s plan to start training vague new AI technologies on European Union-based Facebook and Instagram users’ personal posts and pictures.

Meta’s AI training data will also be collected from third parties and from using Meta’s generative AI features and interacting with pages, the company has said. Additionally, Meta plans to collect information about people who aren’t on Facebook or Instagram but are featured in users’ posts or photos. The only exception from AI training is made for private messages sent between “friends and family,” which will not be processed, Meta’s blog said, but private messages sent to businesses and Meta are fair game. And any data collected for AI training could be shared with third parties.

“Unlike the already problematic situation of companies using certain (public) data to train a specific AI system (e.g. a chatbot), Meta’s new privacy policy basically says that the company wants to take all public and non-public user data that it has collected since 2007 and use it for any undefined type of current and future ‘artificial intelligence technology,'” Noyb alleged in a press release.

And “once their data [is] in the system,” Noyb said, “users seem to have no option of ever having it removed.”

As Meta has given EU users until June 26 to opt out of the data processing, Noyb has asked data processing authorities in the EU to intervene urgently. After that, “there will be no way back,” Noyb said, and personal data cannot be deleted from Meta’s AI models.

“We keep training data for as long as we need it on a case-by-case basis to ensure an AI model is operating appropriately, safely, and efficiently,” one Meta AI privacy page said. “We also may keep it to protect our or other’s interests or comply with legal obligations.”

More than 400 million EU users could be affected, Noyb argued, and many Facebook users who have abandoned their accounts likely aren’t aware their data will be processed for this purpose. Noyb also claimed that Meta has intentionally complicated the opt-out process using “dark patterns” to ensure that the fewest number of users block data processing.

Why Meta AI wants EU users’ data

Meta has said that collecting personal data is necessary to train AI services that reflect “the diverse cultures and languages of the European communities who will use them.” Participating will help Meta “provide and curate artificial intelligence technology in our Products, enabling the creation of content like text, audio, images, and videos, including by understanding and recognizing your use of content in the features,” an AI policy page said.

“This includes features not yet available in Europe, like allowing people to create customized stickers for chats and stories, as well as Meta AI, our virtual assistant you can access to answer questions, generate images, and more in our family of apps and on devices,” Meta’s blog said.

The AI initiative seems to be part of the social media company’s effort to appeal to younger users, according to a blog from head of Facebook, Tom Alison. He described “the future of Facebook” as being all about developing “the world’s best recommendation technology” and “building one of the world’s best collections of open models, tools, and resources for generative AI.

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