Meta’s EU Ad-Free Subscription Faces Privacy Challenge By Noyb


Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has come under scrutiny for its new strategy to bypass European Union (EU) privacy regulations. The company is offering EU users a choice between paying a monthly subscription fee for ad-free access to its social networks or agreeing to have their privacy rights compromised by being tracked and profiled for targeted advertising. Privacy rights group noyb has filed a complaint with Austria’s data protection authority, arguing that Meta’s subscription cost is disproportionate to the value it derives from tracking EU users.

Key Takeaway

Meta’s ad-free subscription scheme, which requires users to pay a substantial fee to avoid being tracked and profiled, has drawn criticism from privacy rights group noyb. The organization argues that the cost of the subscription is not justified by the value Meta derives from tracking EU users. noyb also contends that the high financial barrier prevents EU citizens from freely choosing to protect their privacy, potentially rendering online privacy unaffordable for many. The outcome of this case could have far-reaching implications for the privacy practices of other app providers.

Challenging the ‘Pay or Okay’ Approach

As soon as Meta’s plan to implement a ‘pay or okay’ system became public, noyb pledged to challenge it through legal means. The organization is now following through on its commitment by initiating a complaint with Austria’s data protection authority. noyb contends that the subscription cost for EU users is excessively high compared to the average revenue per user in the region. The complaint also highlights the financial burden that the subscription places on individuals, particularly those facing financial hardship.

The Cost of Privacy

According to noyb, Meta’s ad-free subscription can cost users between €120 and €250 per year, depending on whether they have a Facebook or Instagram account, or both. The organization argues that if other app providers adopt a similar approach, the cost for users to protect their privacy would further escalate. noyb warns that the introduction of a “fundamental rights fee” across multiple apps could render online privacy unaffordable for many EU citizens.

Limited Freedom of Choice

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the EU stipulates that consent for data processing must be freely given. noyb argues that the high financial cost of Meta’s ad-free subscription presents an unachievable barrier to EU citizens freely choosing to protect their privacy. The organization points to research indicating that most people do not want their data used for personalized ads. However, faced with the option to pay a fee or consent to tracking, users are often left with no choice but to accept tracking.

A Potential Domino Effect

noyb highlights the significance of Meta’s case, suggesting that a favorable outcome for the company could influence other app providers to adopt similar practices. The organization mentions that TikTok is reportedly experimenting with an ad-free subscription model outside the US. If more apps follow suit, the financial burden on individuals to protect their privacy could become even more burdensome.

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