Published in, 3.10.2023

Meta plans to give European Facebook and Instagram users the option of paying for ad-free versions of the social media services as a way to comply with the EU's data rules.

Meta plans to give European Facebook and Instagram users the option of paying for ad-free versions as a way to comply with new EU data privacy rules.

Meta plans to give Facebook and Instagram users in Europe the option of paying for ad-free versions of the social media platforms as a way to comply with the continent’s strict data privacy rules. The company wants to charge users about €10 a month to use Instagram or Facebook without ads on desktop browsers, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the proposal. Adding more accounts would cost €6 each. Prices for mobile would be higher, at roughly €13 a month, because Meta needs to account for commissions charged by the Apple and Google app stores on in-app payments, the newspaper said. Meta reportedly is hoping to roll out paid subscriptions in the coming months as a way to comply with European Union data privacy rules that threaten its lucrative business model of showing personalised ads to users. Meta would give users the choice between continuing to use the platforms with ads or paying for the ad-free version. “Meta believes in the value of free services which are supported by personalised ads,” the company said in a statement to Euronews. “However, we continue to explore options to ensure we comply with evolving regulatory requirements. We have nothing further to share at this time. “The EU’s top court said in July that Meta must first get consent before showing ads to users – a ruling that jeopardises the company’s ability to make money by tailoring advertisements for individual users based on their online interests and digital activity. It is unclear if EU regulators will sign off on the plan or insist that the company offer cheaper versions.

Is it legal for Meta to make this change?

According to Patrick Breyer, an MEP from the Pirate Party Germany, Meta’s plans are not legal under European law and should not be allowed. “It’s certainly not legal,” he said in an interview.

“This approach – that we should have to pay for our right to privacy – is not justified, because the advertising that Meta uses is surveillance-based advertising based on surveilling our every click online.  “They could use different kinds of advertising to fund their platform, for instance, advertising that doesn’t rely on our personal data.  “If you open a magazine, if you watch a TV programme, everyone will be presented the same advertising, and this is what they could do. So why charge more than €100 a year just to ensure respect for your right to privacy. This is not justified,” he said. But Vagelis Papakonstantinou, a Professor of Personal Data Protection Law at the Free University of Brussels, told Euronews that this is not the case and its legality is not necessarily in question. “In principle, online platforms that are private actors are free to change their business strategies anytime, subject, of course, to the usual market regulations that are applicable to everybody, such as data protection law, competition law, intra-group trading, etc.,”Papakonstantinou said. “Changes normally affect future users, so it will be therefore interesting to see how they will reconcile this with the lawful interests of current users who have built elaborate profiles over the years under a different understanding,” he added. When asked by Euronews if the European Commission was aware of such a proposal by Meta, it said that it does not comment on the business decisions of companies.