Update, 10:22 am, 30/11/2023: A new complaint about Meta’s subscription formulas increases criticism of the ‘pay for privacy’ formula. This is a shared complaint by the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) and eighteen of its members. It was submitted to the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network and will be discussed by all national authorities of all countries in the European Economic Area. The BEUC is, therefore, passing on the criticism at a higher level than the privacy foundation noyb, which informed the Austrian regulator last week.
Original, 4:40 pm, 28/11/2023: Meta’s subscription models can be viewed as a way to make users pay for their privacy. The action group noyb is addressing this point with an Austrian regulator.
Noyb, the foundation behind Max Schrems, is officially suing Meta’s policy change. With the change, the social media platform introduced a paid subscription that offers users an ad-free platform. The cost for the subscription quickly becomes too high for users, as there is separate payment for web and mobile usage and soon an additional fee for each linked account.
The price is not the main subject of complaint. But the fact that subscriptions are the only option to get out from under data collection by Meta is. This data uses the social media conglomerate to send personalized ads. There is no way to turn off these types of advertisements for free. Noyb thinks this is unreasonable because it makes users pay for their privacy.
Noyb, short for None Of Your Business, is a campaign group that advocates for the privacy of EU residents. The group is mainly active around the legal framework that allows data transmission between the EU and the U.S.
Meta needs users’ consent under European law to show personalized ads to users. Noyb, therefore, finds it outrageous that Meta enforces this consent with a “privacy fee of up to 250 euros per year if anyone dares to exercise their fundamental right to data protection”.
However, charging a fee for not tracking a user is not prohibited by law. The only conditions for the fee are that the fee must be necessary and costs a legitimate price. According to Noyb, the cost is not acceptable.
When will the EU ban the activities?
“If Meta gets away with this, competitors will soon follow in her footsteps,” the group still warns. So, it is a clear call to legislators to crack down on the practices. This is needed because no action has been taken after the first response to the introduced subscriptions.