The news comes as the U.K. Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) released a report into pro-Brexit campaigns' use of data. That resulted in proposed fines on organizations run by Brexit's biggest single donor, Aaron Banks, and Leave.EU totalling £135,000.
A spokesperson for ICO said its Brexit probe didn't expand to some tracking practises at Facebook. And so it's handed the information it obtained during the investigation to Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC). As per the ICO's report released Tuesday morning: "We are in the process of referring other outstanding issues about Facebook’s targeting functions and techniques used to monitor individuals' browsing habits, interactions and behaviour across the internet and different devices to the Irish Data Protection Commission, as the lead supervisory authority for Facebook under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)."
The ICO spokesperson told Forbes fake ads would be included in that referral. She cited a recent spate of reports outlining failures in Facebook's ability to prevent people lying about who paid for ads and targeting of racist views.
The Irish regulator has not yet received the referral, however. As and when it's forthcoming, the body will explore Facebook's practises and and whether any punishment is required.
"Once this referral has been received by the DPC, we will assess the information and decide then what steps are required. We cannot comment any further until that time," a spokesperson for the Irish authority said.
A Facebook spokesperson said: "We regularly engage with regulators regarding our advertising tools, which we believe fully comply with EU data protection laws. We look forward to continuing these discussions with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, as our lead regulator on data protection matters under the GDPR."
An embarrassing month
In the last month alone, a host of publications discovered ways to expose Facebook's ad vetting process. The Intercept found last week it could advertise to those interested in "white genocide." The term has frequently been used by extremists who believe white people are being exterminated by people of different races. The report came just days after a man believed to have held such views shot 11 dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Facebook subsequently apologized and removed the ability to target those with such interests.
Vice was able to set up ads purportedly backed by Senators. The reporter had to do little more than lie about who he worked for and who he was, and Facebook approved the ads. Facebook admitted they never should have been approved.
And Business Insider reported Facebook approved its ads that claimed to have been paid for by Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics company that was at the center of a furore around access to personal information belonging to users of the social media website.
In May, Facebook announced the "Paid for by" feature, which was supposed to bring transparency about who was behind the ads. It appears that thanks to the obvious ease with which it can be manipulated, it may be causing more confusion than clarity.