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Does Facebook Use Sensitive Data for Advertising Purposes?

Citizens worldwide have demonstrated serious concerns regarding the management of personal information by online services. Policymakers have reacted to this situation by passing or proposing new regulations in the area of privacy and/or data protection. In a recent work, we demonstrated that Facebook (FB) labels 73% of users within the EU with potentially sensitive interests (referred to as ad preferences as well), which may contravene the GDPR. First, this article extends the scope of our analysis from the EU to 197 countries worldwide in February 2019. Second, we analyze whether the enactment of the GDPR on May 28, 2018 had some impact on the FB practices regarding the use of sensitive ad preferences. Third, we discuss privacy and ethics risks that may be derived from the exploitation of sensitive FB ad preferences. Finally, we present a technical solution that allows users to remove in a simple way the sensitive interests FB has assigned them.

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