Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning , General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) , Next-Generation Technologies & Secure Development

Meta Delays Data Harvesting for AI Plans in Europe

Company Says It Will Still Attempt to Use Public Posts Dating to 2007 to Train AI
Meta Delays Data Harvesting for AI Plans in Europe
Meta's European headquarters is in Dublin, Ireland. (Image: Shutterstock)

Social media giant Meta will delay plans to train artificial intelligence with data harvested from European Instagram and Facebook users weeks after a rights group lodged a complaint against the company with 11 European data regulators.

See Also: Classification By Design: The Foundation Of Effective Data Protection Compliance

Meta in May announced plans to expand AI across Facebook and Instagram for European and British customers. "These features and experiences need to be trained on information that reflects the diverse cultures and languages of the European communities who will use them," it said at the time.

In a Friday update, Meta said it hit pause after coming under pressure from the Irish Data Protection Commission and other European data protection authorities. "This is a step backwards for European innovation, competition in AI development and further delays bringing the benefits of AI to people in Europe," Meta said.

A Meta spokesperson told Information Security Media Group that the delay is temporary and that the company will launch its AI systems in the United Kingdom and Europe soon. He did not provide a timeline on its potential roll-in the future.

"The DPC welcomes the decision by Meta to pause its plans to train its large language model using public content shared by adults," an Irish DPC spokesperson told ISMG. "This decision followed intensive engagement between the DPC and Meta." The Irish agency has outsized influence over Meta since the social media giant's European headquarters is in Dublin.

Meta said it planned to use publicly shared posts, photos and their captions dating back to 2007 for AI training purposes.

Austrian rights group None of Your Business lodged complaints with 11 European data regulators, voicing concerns that Meta would violate at least 10 privacy requirements under the General Data Protection Regulation (see: Meta's AI Model Training Comes Under European Scrutiny).

NOYB invoked the "urgency procedure" under the GDPR, which calls on supervisory authorities to take an immediate binding decision.

Since Meta has not announced any changes to its privacy policy, the company's decision is not a permanent move, said Max Schrems, founder of NOYB. "The cases we filed are ongoing and will need a determination."

Meta's decision to temporarily roll back its AI plans comes on the heels of Microsoft on Friday scaling back its rollout of Recall, an automatic screenshot feature indexed by artificial intelligence (see: Microsoft Backtracks on Recall Rollout).

About the Author

Akshaya Asokan

Akshaya Asokan

Senior Correspondent, ISMG

Asokan is a U.K.-based senior correspondent for Information Security Media Group's global news desk. She previously worked with IDG and other publications, reporting on developments in technology, minority rights and education.

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