EU Privacy Advocates Request Privacy Enforcers To Ban Meta’s Paid Ad-free Service 

EU Privacy Advocates Request Privacy Enforcers To Ban Meta’s Paid Ad-free Service 

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EU Privacy Advocates Requests To Ban Meta’s Paid Ad-free Plans

On Friday, a group of 28 organizations including the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, and Wikimedia Europe urged the privacy watchdog—the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) —to reject Meta’s paid ad-free service.

If Meta’s subscriptions are allowed, other companies might soon pick up these schemes to get more money out of their users.

The subscription model which is known as “pay or okay” is available at 9.99 euros ($10.80)/month on the web and 12.99 euros/month on Android and iOS devices.

According to this scheme, users need to pay to opt out of Meta’s data tracking system which essentially suggests that they are asking users to pay for their privacy.

The biggest issue with this scheme according to the activists is that it offers privacy as a commodity and not a right. Also, it clearly violates EU privacy laws which state that every individual should have a “free choice” to decide whether their data should be tracked.

Hence, a joint letter was issued by these organizations stating the need for Meta, which owns Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram to align with EU laws.

Under EU law, users have to have a ‘free and genuine choice’ when they consent to be tracked for personalized advertisement.Max Schrems, Austrian activist and lawyer

But in this case, Europeans are being forced to pay for their fundamental right. The EDPB is yet to decide whether Meta is violating the bloc’s data privacy laws.

Representatives from Meta argued that this scheme has been put in place to comply with the strict laws imposed by the European Union.

To be precise, these subscription plans are in accordance with a judgment passed by the European Union (CJEU) — Europe’s highest court of justice. It endorses the use of subscription models that allow people to choose what happens to their data.

It happened after Meta was slapped with a massive €390m fine in January for forcing its users to consent to data tracking. The Irish Data Protection Commission said back then that asking users to leave the platform if they don’t want their data tracked goes against the laws.

Hence, Meta came up with this subscription model to address this very concern. The app also said that the subscription model is more about compliance and less about revenue generation.

After endless trials last year, Meta also released a statement in October stating that its schemes are always aligned with the latest regulations and judgments passed by European regulators and the courts.

Meta has been in constant struggle with the EU over the past few years. Last week, both Meta and TikTok took the EU to court over the unfair imposition of a supervisory fee.

Companies that faced a loss in 2022, such as Amazon and X, are not expected to pay up.

Meta has argued that while some companies pay nothing, others are forced to pay a ridiculously high amount— 0.05% of its annual worldwide net income to be precise.

According to the EU, this amount will be used to cover the cost of regulators responsible for monitoring content and ensuring it aligns with local laws. This fee comes under the Digital Services Act (DSA) and is imposed on 20 large digital organizations, including two search engines.

Representatives from the EU said that they would defend their rules in court. The fee was due by 31st December 2023 and the remaining 20 companies have all honored their commitment.

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