Meta's ad-free scheme dares you to buy your privacy back, one euro at a time

If you're in the EU, EEA, or Switzerland

From November, it will be possible to pay Meta to stop shoveling ads in your Instagram or Facebook feeds and slurping your data for marketing purposes so long as you live in the EU, EEA, or Switzerland.

Campaigners have long wanted to put a price on a user's data, and Meta appears to have done just that. If you want to use its services, but do not want ads or have your data sold to marketeers, that will be €9.99/month on the web or €12.99/month on iOS and Android.

The higher price for iOS and Android is blamed on the cut Apple and Google demand for purchases.

Regardless of where a user makes the purchase, the subscription will apply to all linked Facebook and Instagram accounts in a user's Accounts Center. However, from March 1, 2024, Zuck's team will want an additional fee of €6/month on the web and €8/month on iOS and Android for each additional account listed in a user's Accounts Center.

As for why the company is doing this, it all comes down to the rulings of European regulators, who have been cranking up the pressure on how social media outlets use personal data. Following rulings to the effect that Meta needs to seek consent from users, the company has opted for a subscription model.

Meta had previously said that it would seek explicit consent from EU users before serving targeted ads, and here we are.

The company said: "In its ruling, the CJEU [Court of Justice of the European Union] expressly recognized that a subscription model, like the one we are announcing, is a valid form of consent for an ads funded service."

If you don't subscribe, you effectively consent to ads and your data being used in personalized advertising campaigns.

You would be forgiven for thinking this is all a bit topsy-turvy. Meta is expecting a substantial amount of cash from users for not slurping their data for marketing purposes, which seems to be at odds with the spirit of rulings from regulators, if not some of the actual words.

Longtime privacy campaigner Max Schrems noted earlier this month:

"The CJEU said that the alternative to ads must be 'necessary' and the fee must be 'appropriate.' I don't think €160 a year is what they had in mind. These six words are also an 'obiter dictum,' a non-binding element that went beyond the core case before the CJEU. For Meta this is not the most stable case law and we will clearly fight against such an approach."

Meta also has the thorny issue of the under-18s to consider. While the subscription model with no ads is available to users aged 18 and up, it also must consider younger users. The company said: "We're continuing to explore how to provide teens with a useful and responsible ad experience given this evolving regulatory landscape."

The exploration had best be rapid. The company is very much in the cross hairs of lawmakers, and there is no guarantee that its subscription model will pass muster with the courts. Meta has already been identified as a gatekeeper under the European Commission's Digital Markets Act (DMA), and, combined with the Digital Services Act (DSA), Meta is likely to come under scrutiny over how it handles children's data for marketing purposes. ®

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