Social media giant Facebook was forced to drop its ‘I voted’ button at the recent General Election after it failed to come up with answers to queries from the Irish Data Protection Commission regarding the button’s transparency.
A statement from the DPC confirmed that it had raised concerns with Facebook regarding how the data of its users was being processed once the Election Day Reminder (EDR) button had been used.
It is believed that those concerns in the main surrounded the potential for that data to be used in targeted political advertising in the wake of the election, such as that seen in advance of the American vote for Donald Trump and Britain’s Brexit referendum, both in 2016.
The concerns were first raised by the Italian data protection authority on foot of issues noted with the voting button in elections in Italy over the past year, with the Irish DPC thereafter spearheading a probe into the issue in its role as chief regulator for Facebook in Europe.
It is the second such slap on the wrist delivered by the DPC to Facebook in recent weeks, after a beta dating service which had been set to launch on the social media site across the European Union was pulled at the 11th hour ahead of Valentine’s Day on foot of an inspection from the Commission at the company’s head office in Dublin.
Facebook is the subject of more than 50% of the 21 investigations into multinational companies being carried out by the DPC at present.
Its Election Day Reminder button had become popular in recent Irish elections and referenda, with users taking the opportunity to inform their own networks that they had exercised their democratic rights.
The Commission confirmed that the button “will not be activated during any EU elections pending a response to the DPC addressing the concerns raised”.
A Facebook spokesperson meanwhile described the reminder as “a positive feature” which “reminds people to vote and helps them find their polling place”.
“We have paused this feature in the EU for the time being. We will continue working with the DPC to address their concerns," the spokesperson added.