Meta's Ad-Free Subscription Model Wades into Troubled Waters
November 29, 2023
1 min 52 sec read
Remember when Meta introduced those expensive ad-free plans for Facebook and Instagram back in November? Not that long ago, right?
Well, the company is already wading into troubled waters with the European Union (UE).
It doesn't take Meta long to come under fire for something. This time, the Austria-based digital rights group Noyb complained to the country's data protection authority
that Meta's new model could make privacy an "exclusive right for the rich" because it charges a substantial fee to opt out of ads.
The digital group asked the Austrian privacy protection body to begin the procedure to halt what it considers "illegal processing."
Here are the basics of Meta's subscription model. Users (at least 18 years old) can sign up and select the desktop plan for €9.99 per month or the smartphone version for €12.99 a month. The fee will cover all linked profiles until March 1, 2024, then an additional €6 charge on desktop and €8 on iOS/Android will be applied.
Meta says the new subscription is a way to balance "the requirements of European regulators while giving users choice and allowing Meta to continue serving all people in the EU, EEA, and Switzerland."
Noyb contends that "data privacy should be a right accessible to anyone," no matter the size of their bank account. Meta's subscription model offers two options: get tracked for personalized advertising by the company or pay up to €251.88 a year to keep your "right to data protection."
Max Schrems, Chairman at Noyb, said: "Fundamental rights are usually available to everyone. How many people would still exercise their right to vote if they had to pay €250 to do so? There were times when fundamental rights were reserved for the rich. It seems Meta wants to take us back for more than a hundred years."
Noyb feels the high price of Meta's ad-free plans is just one more way the company has tried to bypass obligations of protecting users' data ruled out by EU laws.
"EU law requires that consent is the genuine free will of the user," said Felix Mikolasch, a data protection lawyer at Noyb. "Contrary to this law, Meta charges a privacy fee of up to €250 per year if anyone dares to exercise their fundamental right to data protection."
Noyb fears that Meta's decision could "set a dangerous precedent that may cause a domino effect within the industry." The "privacy-infamous" TikTok has already confirmed it has begun testing an ad-free subscription outside the US.
Sounds like a trend to us.
Noyb filed a new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) complaint against Meta in what they call "Pay or Okay" on November 28th. It will be interesting to see how the situation plays out, but for now, Meta will let European users pay to keep their privacy intact.
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