July 19, 2024

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is to pause plans to use personal data to train artificial intelligence (AI) models after concerns were raised by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC).

Privacy campaigners had complained about Meta’s plans amid fears that they may be in breach of EU privacy rules.

In a statement, the DPC said it welcomed the decision by Meta to pause its plans to train its large language model using public content shared by adults on Facebook and Instagram across the EU/EEA.

“This decision followed intensive engagement between the DPC and Meta,” said Graham Doyle, Deputy Commissioner at the DPC.

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

Advocacy group NOYB (none of your business) was among those who had urged national privacy watchdogs to act immediately to halt Meta’s plans, saying recent changes in the company’s privacy policy, which come into force on 26 June, would allow it to use years of personal posts, private images or online tracking data for its AI technology.

In a statement, Meta said it was disappointed by the request from the DPC, its lead regulator, to delay training its large language models using public content shared by adults on Facebook and Instagram.

The company said it had incorporated regulatory feedback and had European authorities since March.

“This is a step backwards for European innovation, competition in AI development and further delays bringing the benefits of AI to people in Europe,” Meta said.

“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.”

“We are committed to bringing Meta AI, along with the models that power it, to more people around the world, including in Europe. But, 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.”

Meta said it would continue to work collaboratively with the DPC and added that the delay would enable it to address specific requests received from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), its UK regulator, ahead of starting the training.