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Meta platforms face a €550 million damages lawsuit from Spanish media groups

In a significant legal development, 83 Spanish media organizations, led by the AMI newspaper publishing association, have filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook. The collective is seeking €550 million in damages, and the case, filed in a commercial court, accuses Meta of engaging in unfair competition within the advertising market.

The crux of the legal argument revolves around the claim that Meta gains an unjust advantage by extensively and systematically utilizing personal data collected from users of its Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp platforms. These media outlets assert that Meta's use of such data allows the company to create and display personalized ads, constituting what they believe to be an unfair competitive practice.

Among the notable participants in this legal action are Prisa, the publisher of Spain's major newspaper El Pais, and Vocento, the owner of ABC and other media properties. The coalition of media entities, including privately-owned companies, contends that a significant portion of Meta's advertisements relies on personal data acquired without users' explicit consent, thereby violating data protection regulations.

The lawsuit specifically highlights Meta's alleged repeated failures to comply with data protection legislation. The media consortium emphasizes Meta's disregard for the regulatory requirement that citizens must consent to the use of their data for advertising profiling, as evidenced by various resolutions from European authorities in this matter.

In a press release, the consortium stated, "Meta has repeatedly failed to comply with data protection legislation, ignoring the regulatory requirement that citizens must consent to the use of their data for advertising profiling, as can be seen from the different resolutions of the European authorities competent in this matter." They further note that Meta's systematic and extensive use of users' personal data, tracked without their consent during their online activities, appears to have provided the American company with an unfairly obtained competitive edge in the advertising market.

This legal action echoes a previous instance in 2014 when Spanish media organizations took a stand against tech companies. At that time, the Spanish government compelled Google News, a service provided by Alphabet, to cease its operations. The service remained offline until 2022, following the implementation of new legislation that enabled media outlets to engage in direct negotiations with the tech giant.

Source: adapted from an article by Anne Freer, Writer for Business of Apps.

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