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Facebook faces fresh criticism over ad targeting of sensitive interests

Is Facebook trampling over laws that regulate the processing of sensitive categories of personal data by failing to ask people for their explicit consent before it makes sensitive inferences about their sex life, religion or political beliefs? Or is the company merely treading uncomfortably and unethically close to the line of the law? An investigation by the Guardian and the Danish Broadcasting Corporation has found that Facebook’s platform allows advertisers to target users based on interests related to political beliefs, sexuality and religion — all categories that are marked out as sensitive information under current European data protection law. And indeed under the incoming GDPR , which will apply across the bloc from May 25. The joint investigation found Facebook’s platform had made sensitive inferences about users — allowing advertisers to target people based on inferred interests including communism, social democrats, Hinduism and Christianity. All of which would be classed as sensitive personal data under EU rules. And while the platform offers some constraints on how advertisers can target people against sensitive interests — not allowing advertisers to exclude users based on a specific sensitive interest, for example (Facebook having previously run into trouble in the US for enabling discrimination via ethnic affinity-based targeting ) — such controls are beside the point if you take the view that Facebook is legally required to ask for a user’s explicit consent to processing this kind of sensitive data up front, before making any inferences about a person. Indeed, it’s very unlikely that any ad platform can put people into buckets with sensitive labels like ‘interested in social democrat issues’ or ‘likes communist pages’ or ‘attends gay events’ without asking them to let it do so first. And Facebook is not asking first. This is going to be a big battleground. We talk about inferred special category data in the context of the Article 29 Working Party guidelines on profiling here > https://t.co/TjCHqOvcBA (open access) https://t.co/XZB5ypjELs — Michael Veale (@mikarv) May 16, 2018 Facebook argues otherwise, of course — claiming that the information it gathers about people’s affinities/interests, even when they entail sensitive categories of information such as sexuality and religion, is not personal data.

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Facebook faces fresh criticism over ad targeting of sensitive interests

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Farfetch acquires CuriosityChina to expand its social media efforts on the Mainland

Farfetch  — the e-commerce startup that works with some 900 high end fashion boutiques and labels to present and sell clothes, shoes, accessories and jewellery online, and we and others have heard is gearing up for a $6 billion IPO — is making an acquisition to double down China, one of the fastest-growing markets for luxury goods. It’s acquiring Curiosity China , a marketing firm that specialises in leveraging social media — specifically, WeChat — to target users and sell goods. It already works with some 80 brands that are also customers of Farfetch to help them use WeChat channels and accounts to reach would-be customers. It also offers CRM and a few other services. The plan will be to incorporate Curiosity China into Farfetch’s “Black & White” white-label API, which essentially allows boutiques to integrate their stock into Farfetch’s purchasing and logistics platform, or use that engine to sell its goods on their own sites. This will now give them the option also to use the API to run campaigns in China. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed. This is Farfetch’s third acquisition, the other two being UK boutique Browns and Style.com. Farfetch also said it is buying all of the company’s tech and all of its employees and founders are coming on board. Judy Liu, a co-founder of CuriosityChina, will become Farfetch’s managing director for China; another co-founder, Alexis Bonhomme, is taking on the role of VP commercial, China; and the third co-founder, Arthur Shui, will become head of technology for the Chinese operation. Farfetch’s acquisition of CuriosityChina underscores a few interesting trends currently underway in the market: the rise of the Chinese consumer, the ongoing challenges to target those consumers if you are from outside China, and the rise of social media as a popular marketing and sales channel. The luxury market was worth €262 billion in 2017, according to analysis from Bain, with customers from China accounting for 32 percent of that amount (shopping both in China and abroad).

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