The Landmark Case Against Meta's Pixel Tracker: Implications for GDPR and ePrivacy Compliance

Jul 01, 202405 minute read

The Landmark Case Against Meta's Pixel Tracker: Implications for GDPR and ePrivacy Compliance

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Meta's Pixel Tracker: Implications for GDPR and ePrivacy Compliance

In a recent ruling, a Swedish company, Avanza Bank AB, was fined for using Meta's Pixel Tracker. This decision underscores the stringent requirements for informed consent under both the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Article 5(3) of the ePrivacy Directive (ePD). This case has far-reaching implications for how companies handle consent for various tracking technologies, emphasizing the need for first-party-based consent solutions.

Summary of the Swedish Ruling on Avanza Bank's Use of Meta's Pixel Tracker

Key Findings

Data Breach Details:

  • The breach occurred from November 15, 2019, to June 2, 2021.
  • Personal data of approximately 500,000 to 1 million individuals were incorrectly transferred to Meta.
  • The data included personal identification numbers, loan amounts, account numbers, and other sensitive information.

Cause of the Breach:

  • The breach was caused by the accidental activation of Meta’s Automatic Advanced Matching (AAM) feature within the Meta Pixel.
  • The activation of this feature resulted in the unauthorized transfer of personal data to Meta.

Bank's Actions and Oversight:

  • The activation was unintended, and Avanza Bank claimed it was not possible to verify how or by whom the feature was activated.
  • Upon discovery, Avanza Bank deactivated the Meta Pixel and took steps to ensure no further data was transferred.

Regulatory Violations:

  • Avanza Bank was found to have violated Articles 5.1(f) and 32.1 of the GDPR, which require appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure data security.
  • The bank did not follow its documented procedures for implementing and monitoring new functionalities, leading to the unauthorized data transfer.

Security and Confidentiality:

  • The data involved included highly sensitive information that required a high level of protection.
  • The bank's failure to detect and prevent the unauthorized data transfer indicated a lack of adequate systematic security measures.


  • The IMY imposed an administrative fine of 15 million SEK (approximately 1.3 million EUR) on Avanza Bank for these breaches.
  • The decision highlights the need for stringent compliance with GDPR and ePrivacy Directive requirements, especially concerning the use of tracking technologies.

Connecting the Case to Article 5(3) of the ePrivacy Directive

The ruling against Avanza Bank highlights the critical importance of Article 5(3) of the ePrivacy Directive, which addresses the use of tracking technologies. Article 5(3) requires that any information stored or accessed on a user’s device must be done with the user’s informed consent, except when it is strictly necessary for the service explicitly requested by the user.

Key Points of Article 5(3) ePD

  • Informed Consent: Explicit and informed consent is mandatory for the use of tracking technologies like cookies and pixels.
  • Transparency: Users must be informed about the purposes of data collection and their consent must be obtained before any data processing.
  • First-Party Solutions: Companies should adopt first-party consent solutions to maintain compliance and enhance data security.
  • Equal Treatment: There is no distinction between first-party and third-party trackers; all require the same level of consent.

Connecting the ruling to ePD 5(3) ads an even more interesting layer; the ruling was in reference to Articles 5.1(f) and 32.1 of the GDPR, yet under ePD 5(3) loading Meta’s Pixel Tracker without consent is a violation in itself, as it accesses the user's device and is collecting information without transparent and informed consent.

Implications for Businesses

Businesses must now adopt first-party consent solutions to comply with GDPR and ePrivacy Directive requirements. This shift addresses compliance and enhances user trust and data security. The distinction between first-party and third-party data collection has been effectively dissolved, with consent being mandatory for all.

Steps to Achieve Compliance

  • Implement Transparent Consent Mechanisms: Ensure that consent mechanisms are clear, accessible, and fully compliant with GDPR and ePrivacy Directive standards. This involves detailed disclosures about data collection practices and obtaining explicit user consent before any data processing occurs. AesirX Analytics is such a tool that handles first-party consent and analytics in a seamless solution.
  • Adopt a First-Party Data Strategy: The transition from third-party data collection to first-party solutions. This approach mitigates legal risks and provides better control over data quality and security. AesirX First-Party Foundation is an Open-Source Solution Suite that offers seamless compliance for business owners.
  • Utilize Privacy-Enhancing Technologies: Leverage technologies that enhance user privacy and comply with regulatory standards. AesirX offers tools like AesirX Business Intelligence and AesirX Shield of Privacy that facilitate this transition and connect to Analytics.
  • Conduct Regular Privacy Audits: Regularly audit your data practices to ensure ongoing compliance with GDPR and the ePrivacy Directive. This includes reviewing consent mechanisms and data handling processes. Utilizing AesirX Privacy Scanner and the world's first Privacy Advisor AI is a quick and easy way to get started.
  • Educate and Train Your Team: Ensure that your team understands the importance of privacy compliance and the technical requirements to maintain it and has access to real-time privacy and monitoring tools like AesirX Privacy Monitoring.

Do You Need Help?

The recent ruling signals all businesses to prioritize privacy compliance to avoid hefty fines and build a trustworthy brand. If you need help navigating these regulations, our AesirX Privacy Review offers a comprehensive assessment of your privacy practices and actionable recommendations for improvement.

Is your business ready to comply with GDPR and the ePrivacy Directive? Contact us today to Schedule a Web-Facing Privacy Review and ensure your practices meet the latest regulatory standards at a special introductory price. Protect your business and build trust with your users by adopting a privacy-first approach.

Ronni K. Gothard Christiansen // VikingTechGuy


About the AesirX Privacy Scanner:

The AesirX Privacy Scanner is a powerful tool designed to ensure that websites comply with the stringent requirements of the ePrivacy Directive and GDPR. Using the EU's EDPS (European Data Protection Supervisor) Inspection Tool, the AesirX Privacy Scanner conducts thorough scans of websites to identify non-compliant elements, including cookies, trackers, and beacons.

AesirX also offers a free Privacy Advisor AI Assistant that helps to explain the scanned results from the EDPS Inspection Tool and offers concrete recommendations on what is needed to resolve compliance issues found in the scan result.

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