Spain Bans Facebook, Instagram Election Features Over Privacy Concerns

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Key Takeaways

  • Spain has banned Facebook and Instagram election features ahead of the EU vote.
  • It's worried Meta might violate European data rules by collecting and sharing information.
  • Meta has denied violating any privacy measures.

Spain has banned Meta from rolling out election features on Facebook and Instagram ahead of the European Union vote starting June 6th.

As TechCrunch observed, the country’s AEPD data protection agency implemented the ban as a “precautionary measure.” It was  concerned that Meta might collect and process data in ways that could violate the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), such as profiling users or transferring personal info to third parties.

The agency believed Meta’s Election Day Information and Voter Information Unit features were going to collect usernames, age, gender, IP addresses, and relevant interactions on Facebook and Instagram. There was a “high risk” the data could be used by unknown agents for “non-explicit” ends, the AEPD said.

In the EU, politics-related data requires explicit user consent before it’s processed.

Meta rejected the allegations in a statement. The Facebook and Instagram election features are “expressly designed” to protect privacy and honor the GDPR, the company said. It planned to comply with the ban despite disagreeing with the decision.

The social media giant has vowed to ramp up its election safeguards to account for multiple important votes this year, including those in the EU, South Africa, UK, and US. As in 2016 and 2020, there are worries hostile countries and other bad actors could use misinformation to manipulate voters, such as giving them the wrong poll information or lying about a candidate’s policies.

The ban in Spain isn’t necessarily permanent. It does, however, pressure Meta to address more individual countries’ fears about election integrity efforts. The tech giant also faced an emergency request from Italy in 2022 to outline election measures, and it won’t be surprising if other nations follow suit.