October 15, 2021

Digital Privacy: “Does Facebook Use Sensitive Data for Advertising Purposes? Worldwide Analysis and GDPR Impact (Preprint)

The following article (preprint) was recently shared on arXiv.

Title

Does Facebook Use Sensitive Data for Advertising Purposes? Worldwide Analysis and GDPR Impact

Authors

Ángel Cuevas
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

José González Cabañas
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Aritz Arrate
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Rubén Cuevas
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Source

arXiv

Abstract

The recent European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other data protection regulations restrict the processing of some categories of personal data (health, political orientation, sexual preferences, religious beliefs, ethnic origin, etc.) due to the privacy risks associated to such information.

The GDPR refers to these categories as sensitive personal data. This paper quantifies the portion of Facebook (FB) users, across 197 countries, who are labeled with advertising interests linked to potentially sensitive personal data.

Our study reveals that Facebook labels 67% of users with potential sensitive interests. This corresponds to 22% of the population in the referred 197 countries. Moreover, our work shows that the GDPR enforcement had a negligible impact in this context since the portion of FB users labeled with sensitive interests in the European Union remains almost the same 5 months before and 9 months after the GDPR was enacted.

The paper also illustrates potential risks associated to the use of sensitive interests. For instance, we quantify the portion of FB users labelled with the interest “Homosexuality” in countries where being gay may be punished with the death penalty.

The last contribution is the implementation of a web browser extension that allows FB users removing in a simple way the potentially sensitive interests FB has assigned them.

Direct to Full Text Article
7 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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