Advertising on Facebook – Data Protection Sets Limits

Many companies use Facebook for targeted advertising because target groups can be addressed easily via Facebook and other social media. However, from the point of view of data protection, there are limits involved. Advertising via social media is only permitted under certain conditions.

On June 5, 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) passed an eagerly awaited ruling on the data protection obligations of companies that operate a so-called “Facebook fan page”.

The ruling concerned the “Facebook Insight” function. With the help of this function, the operator of a fan page receives certain personal data about the visitors to its fan page, in the form of anonymous statistics that can be used to optimize the company’s marketing. When setting up the fan page, a company can define filter criteria according to which these statistics are generated, e.g. visitor’s age, gender, relationship status, professional situation, lifestyle, interests.

In its recent ruling, the ECJ ruled that not only Facebook, but also the company operating the fan page, is legally responsible for the collection of data from visitors to the fan page by Facebook. This is remarkable in that the company itself does not actually collect any personal data and the data is collected by Facebook only.

This ruling is likely to have far-reaching consequences for companies, even if they “only” install social media plug-ins on their own homepage. It is likely that the same applies to social media plug-ins. A case dealing with this question is currently pending before the ECJ.


Melanie Gassler-Tischlinger, LL.M. and Dr. Georg Huber, LL.M. explain the background and consequences of this ECJ decision in an article for “Tiroler Wirtschaft” (TW), the newspaper of the Tyrol Chamber of Commerce.

Download Tiroler Wirtschaft 2018/7

ECJ C-210/16

ECJ Press Release

The article was also published in English in the GALA Gazette Volume XIII, Issue III: GALA Gazette

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