EU court adviser backs data privacy activist Schrems in Meta fight

FILE PHOTO: Austrian lawyer and privacy activist Max Schrems poses after a Reuters interview in Vienna, Austria, July 16, 2020. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems on Thursday received backing from an adviser to Europe's top court in his fight against Meta Platforms over personalised advertising based on processing of personal data.

The adviser's opinion is non-binding, but judges at the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), follow the majority of such recommendations. It will rule on the case in the coming months.

Schrems, who has repeatedly sued Meta for alleged breaches of the EU's privacy law known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), took his grievance to an Austrian court, saying he regularly received advertisements directed at homosexuals.

The court subsequently asked the CJEU for guidance.

CJEU advocate general Athanasios Rantos sided with Schrems.

"The Court should rule that the GDPR precludes the processing of personal data for the purposes of targeted advertising without restriction as to time," he said in his opinion.

"A public statement by the user of a social network about his or her sexual orientation renders those data 'manifestly public', without, however, permitting their processing for the purposes of personalised advertising."

Schrems lawyer Katharina Raabe-Stuppnig said political comments on social media should not be allowed to be used for targeted political advertising.

"At the moment, the online advertising industry simply stores everything forever. The law is clear that the processing must stop after a few days or weeks. For Meta, this would mean that a large part of the information they have collected over the last decade would become taboo for advertising," she said.

The case is C-446/21 Schrems (Communicating data to the public).

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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