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Privacy Advocates Urge European Regulators to Oppose Meta’s No-Ads Subscription Model

 |  February 18, 2024

In a joint effort to safeguard digital privacy rights, a coalition of 28 organizations has called upon European privacy enforcers to challenge Meta Platforms’ no-ads subscription service launched in Europe last November.

The group, led by prominent privacy activist Max Schrems’ advocacy group NOYB, alongside entities like the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Wikimedia Europe, and the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, raised concerns about the implications of requiring users to pay for privacy protection, reported Reuters.

The contentious issue revolves around Meta’s subscription service, which mandates users to pay a fee to ensure their privacy. According to the coalition, this business model, if endorsed, could set a precedent for other companies to adopt similar strategies, potentially limiting access to privacy for those who cannot afford to pay.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) is currently poised to issue guidance regarding consent or pay models in the digital space. This development follows a request from privacy watchdogs in the Netherlands, Norway, and Hamburg to the EU privacy regulator for an opinion on the matter.

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Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, reiterated its commitment to compliance with EU regulations, asserting that the subscription service aligns with users’ preferences regarding data collection and targeted advertising. Under Meta’s model, users who consent to data tracking receive free services supported by advertising revenues, while those who opt for the subscription enjoy an ad-free experience.

A spokesperson for Meta defended the subscription-for-privacy model, citing recent regulatory developments and judicial precedents, including a landmark decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in July. The CJEU endorsed subscription-based models as a legitimate means for individuals to consent to data processing for personalized advertising.

However, the coalition of privacy advocates remains unconvinced, expressing concerns about the potential erosion of privacy rights and the creation of a two-tiered digital ecosystem where privacy becomes a commodity available only to those who can afford it.

The debate over Meta’s no-ads subscription service underscores broader questions surrounding digital privacy, consent, and the commercialization of personal data. As European regulators deliberate on the issue, the outcome could have far-reaching implications for the future of online privacy and the evolving relationship between consumers, technology companies, and regulatory bodies.

Source: Reuters