Updated February 16th, 2024 at 16:15 IST

Privacy advocates challenge Meta's ad-free subscription service in EU

In a joint letter addressed to the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), the coalition highlights the potential implications of Meta's subscription model.

Reported by: Business Desk
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A coalition of 28 organisations, including privacy activist Max Schrems' NOYB, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Wikimedia Europe, and the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, have called upon Europe's privacy enforcers to oppose Meta Platforms' ad-free subscription service launched in November 2023. The group argues that requiring users to pay for privacy sets a concerning precedent likely to be emulated by other companies.

In a joint letter addressed to the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), the coalition highlights the potential implications of Meta's subscription model, which offers users the option to pay for an ad-free experience on Facebook and Instagram. The plea to the EDPB coincides with the regulator's impending issuance of guidance on consent or pay models, following requests from privacy watchdogs in the Netherlands, Norway, and Hamburg.

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Meta has defended its subscription service, asserting its compliance with EU regulations by providing users with a choice regarding the collection and use of their data for targeted advertising. A Meta spokesperson reiterated that the subscription model aligns with recent regulatory developments and judicial decisions in Europe, including an endorsement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in July.

However, the coalition of organisations warns of broader repercussions if Meta's "pay or okay" approach is sanctioned, suggesting it could extend beyond social networks and news pages to any industry capable of monetising personal data through consent. They argue that such a practice would erode the protections established by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the landmark EU privacy legislation enacted in 2016, and exacerbate concerns regarding surveillance capitalism.

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Moreover, the organisations express scepticism regarding the feasibility of Meta's subscription model, suggesting that the majority of users may neither have the means nor the willingness to pay for privacy. They caution against the normalisation of a paywall for privacy, which they believe could undermine the fundamental principles of data protection in Europe.

(With Reuters inputs)
 

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Published February 16th, 2024 at 16:15 IST