Musk’s X faces privacy complaint over ads targeted at users' religious, political views

The non-profit nyob has accused X of using targeted ads and profiting from harmful techniques exposed in the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal

File photo of Elon Musk (photo: National Herald archives)
File photo of Elon Musk (photo: National Herald archives)


Elon Musk’s X is facing a new privacy complaint in Europe as privacy rights not-for-profit noyb on Thursday, 14 December, accused the platform of failing to enforce its own guidelines for targeted advertising.

noyb has filed a complaint against X with the Dutch data protection authority (NL) for unlawfully using the political views and religious beliefs of its users for targeted advertising.

The social media platform used this specially protected data to determine whether people should or should not see an ad campaign by the EU Commission’s Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs, which tried to rally support for the proposed “chat control” in the Netherlands.

In November, this unlawful use of micro-targeting already prompted noyb to file a complaint against the EU Commission itself.

“Now, noyb follows up with a complaint against X. By enabling this practice in the first place, the company violated both the GDPR and the DSA (Digital Services Act),” the group said in a statement.

According to the complaint, X harvests sensitive data such as political view and religious beliefs by monitoring user behavior such as clicks, likes and replies to postings on the platform. X stated in its advertising guidelines that political affiliation and religious beliefs should not be used for the purpose of ad targeting.

In reality, it seems that X is not enforcing the ban in any way, making it practically meaningless, said the group.

“On paper, X prohibits the use of sensitive data for political ads, but in reality they still profit from techniques that we know are harmful ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018,” said Maartje de Graaf, data protection lawyer at noyb.

Given the seriousness of the violations and the large number of affected X users, noyb also suggests that the competent authority should impose a fine.

“After we filed our first complaint in this matter, the EU Commission has already confirmed to stop advertising on X. However, to put an end to this in general, we need enforcement against X as a platform used by many others,” said Felix Mikolasch, data protection lawyer at noyb.

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