EU privacy watchdogs urged to oppose Meta’s paid ad-free service

By Thomson Reuters Feb 16, 2024 | 1:03 AM

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe’s privacy enforcers should oppose Meta Platforms’ paid no-ads subscription service launched in Europe last November because it requires users to pay a fee to ensure their privacy, a model likely to be copied by other companies, a group of 28 organisations said on Friday.

The joint letter by privacy activist Max Schrems’ advocacy group NOYB, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Wikimedia Europe, the Electronic Privacy Information Centre and others to the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) came as the EDPB prepares to issue guidance in the coming weeks on the consent or pay model.

This followed a request from the Dutch, Norwegian and Hamburg privacy watchdogs to the EU privacy regulator for an opinion.

Meta has said the service that applies to Facebook and Instagram aims to comply with EU rules to give users a choice whether their data can be collected and used for targeted ads.

Users who consent to be tracked get a free service which is funded by advertising revenues.

“If ‘pay or okay’ is permitted, it will not be limited to news pages or social networks but will be employed by any industry sector with an ability to monetise personal data via consent,” the 28 organisations said in the letter.

“In practice, this would successfully undermine the GDPR, the high European data protection standard and wash away all realistic protections against surveillance capitalism,” they said, referring to the EU landmark privacy rules adopted in 2016.

“We believe that Meta, and other companies likely to follow suit, are cognizant of the fact that a majority of users will neither be able nor willing to pay a fee.”

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)