Meta pauses AI plans for Europe after Irish regulator request

Without use of local data planned product would be ‘second-rate experience’, says Facebook owner

Meta says the Irish request is a step backwards for European innovation and competition in AI development. Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

Meta will not launch its Meta AI models in Europe for now after the State’s Data Protection Commission told it to delay its plan to harness data from Facebook and Instagram users, the US social media company said on Friday.

The move by Meta came after complaints and a call by advocacy group NOYB to data protection authorities in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Spain to act against the company.

At issue is Meta’s plan to use personal data to train its artificial intelligence (AI) models without seeking consent, although the company has said it would use publicly available and licensed online information.

The company said it planned to use content that people in the European Union have chosen to share publicly on Meta’s products and services to train its large language models (LLMs) that power AI features.

READ MORE

Meta on Friday said the Irish privacy watchdog had asked it to delay training its LLMs using public content shared by Facebook and Instagram adult users.

“We’re disappointed by the request from the Irish Data Protection Commission [DPC], our lead regulator, on behalf of the European DPAs ... particularly since we incorporated regulatory feedback and the European DPAs [Data Protection Authorities] have been informed since March,” said the company in an updated blog post.

“We remain highly confident that our approach complies with European laws and regulations. AI training is not unique to our services, and we’re more transparent than many of our industry counterparts,” the post reads.

‘Ireland is a microcosm of a global housing problem’

Listen | 30:11

It said the Irish request was a step backwards for European innovation and competition in AI development.

“Put simply, without including local information we’d only be able to offer people a second-rate experience. This means we aren’t able to launch Meta AI in Europe at the moment,” said Meta.

The company said it remained committed to bringing Meta AI, along with the models that power it, to more people around the world, including in Europe.

The DPC welcomed Meta’s pause, saying its decision came after intensive engagement with the regulator.

“The DPC, in co-operation with its fellow EU data protection authorities, will continue to engage with Meta on this issue,” a statement reads.

NOYB chairman Max Schrems attributed Meta’s temporary halt to the group’s complaints filed last week. “We welcome this development but will monitor this closely. So far there is no official change of the Meta privacy policy, which would make this commitment legally binding. The cases we filed are ongoing and will need a determination,” he said.

Mr Schrems said Meta’s statement reads a bit like “collective punishment”.

“‘If any European insists on his or her rights, the entire Continent will not get our shiny new products.’ However, Meta has every option to roll out AI based on valid consent — it just chooses not to do so,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Minister for Enterprise Peter Burke declined to comment. Reuters