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Meta’s AI project faces privacy complaints in Europe

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Facebook and Instagram parent Meta Platforms’ new artificial-intelligence project faces complaints from a privacy-focused advocacy group in eleven European countries, highlighting the challenges for big technology groups as they turn to users’ data to train its AI tools.

The Noyb-European Center for Digital Rights, a Vienna-based nongovernmental organization, said Thursday that it filed complaints with data-protection authorities in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and other seven countries. The group is urging privacy bodies to stop Meta’s project before changes on its privacy policy takes effect on June 26, it said.

A Meta spokesperson said the company is confident that its approach complies with privacy laws and is consistent with how other tech companies are developing AI in Europe.

The complaints highlight the data-privacy challenges big technology groups could face as they seek to gain an edge in the AI race. Even before AI rose to prominence in the wake of the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot in late 2022, tech giants had to deal with privacy concerns, particularly in EU countries.

European Union lawmakers earlier this year approved comprehensive legislation on AI, setting out sweeping rules for developers and new restrictions on how the technology can be used, that are set to take effect gradually over several years. A previous, separate EU competition law aimed at digital markets pushed companies like Apple and Alphabet’s Google to make changes to their products and services.

The latest European privacy complaints relate to an in-house AI project that Meta said last month it would bring to Europe by the end of the year. The company said it would expand its generative AI features globally, including in Europe, and that it would use public information Facebook and Instagram users shared on Meta’s platforms to train the models that power its AI tools.

Meta said at the time it would began notifying people about how it would use their data in compliance with local privacy laws. To improve its AI tools, the company said it would process certain first and third-party data.

The Austrian NGO said Meta intends to take public and nonpublic user data it has collected since 2007 and use it for an undefined AI technology and didn’t disclose the third parties it would source information from.

Users don’t have the option to remove their data from the system, the group said.

Write to Helena Smolak at helena.smolak@wsj.com

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