With GDPR coming into effect on May 25, one of the biggest questions is how much it will affect key advertising features on platforms like AdWords and Facebook. If the majority of your advertising efforts rely on these platforms, your GDPR preparation hopefully won’t be too demanding as the majority (not all) of responsibility will fall on the tech giants themselves.

However, this means the likes of Google and Facebook will have to rethink the way they collect data from users in the EU – and this is already having an impact on one of Facebook’s new features. The network is introducing a new ad format that links conversations with brands in WhatsApp but the feature won’t be rolling out for users in Europe.


Facebook pulls the plug on ad format for EU users



Facebook has been testing click-to-WhatsApp ads for a year and is now in the process of rolling them out. The feature works much like ads that link to Messenger except a “Send Message” button displays with the WhatsApp logo and takes users to a conversation with official brand WhatsApp accounts.

Another key difference is that Facebook isn’t rolling out the new feature in Europe after it ceased sharing user data with WhatsApp ahead of GDPR in May. Without this data sharing in place, the ad format simply doesn’t work and it seems Facebook isn’t going to ask users in Europe to opt-in for the format either – at least not for now.


A sign of things to come?

Facebook dropping click-to-WhatsApp ads in Europe is an interesting move but it doesn’t tell us a great deal about what to expect from the network regarding GDPR. A distinguishing factor here is that the data is being shared between two platforms and users haven’t given consent for Facebook to do this, which contravenes GDPR guidelines. Whether Facebook will attempt to do this in the future or not – and whether its approach appeases regulators – remains to be seen.

However, this does suggest Facebook might be erring on the side of caution regarding EU regulations. Technically speaking, Facebook doesn’t need to completely drop click-to-WhatsApp ads in Europe. It needs to make sure people who see them in EU nations and the UK opt-in before any data is shared. Which means European advertisers could still use the feature to target people outside of the EU.

Facebook stopped sharing data between its network and WhatsApp in November after pressure from EU regulators over privacy concerns. The network is currently being investigated by data protection authorities in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain while the UK has also expressed concern over how the network handles user data.