Privacy Advocates Urge European Regulators to Oppose Meta’s Ad-Free Subscription Model

A consortium of 28 organizations has called on European privacy enforcers to resist Meta Platforms’ no-ads subscription service, introduced in Europe last November. The group contends that requiring users to pay for privacy protection sets a troubling precedent likely to be emulated by other companies.
Meta Quest Pro VR headsetIn a joint letter addressed to the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), prominent entities including privacy activist Max Schrems’ advocacy group NOYB, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Wikimedia Europe, and the Electronic Privacy Information Centre voiced concerns over the emerging trend of consent or pay models in digital services.

The appeal to the EDPB comes amid requests from Dutch, Norwegian, and Hamburg privacy watchdogs for the EU privacy regulator’s opinion on the matter.

Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) has defended its subscription service, asserting that it aligns with EU regulations by granting users the option to consent to data collection for targeted advertising. Users who opt to be tracked receive the service free of charge, funded by advertising revenues.

A spokesperson for Meta reiterated the company’s commitment to compliance, citing recent guidance from European regulators and court rulings, including a July endorsement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) of subscription models for personalized advertising, Reuters news report said.

However, the coalition of organizations warns that Meta’s approach could set a dangerous precedent, potentially leading other companies to adopt similar pay-for-privacy schemes.

The group expressed apprehension that if the “pay or okay” model gains acceptance, it could extend beyond news pages and social networks to encompass any industry capable of monetizing personal data through user consent.

They argue that such a development would undermine the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the landmark EU privacy legislation enacted in 2016, and erode protections against surveillance capitalism.

Moreover, the organizations assert that the subscription-based approach may disproportionately impact users who are unable or unwilling to pay for privacy, potentially widening disparities in access to online services.

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