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Meta Announces Price Reduction for Ad-Free Subscription in EU Amid Privacy Scrutiny

ByHuey Yee Ong

Mar 21, 2024
Meta Announces Price Reduction for Ad-Free Subscription in EU Amid Privacy Scrutiny

Meta Announces Price Reduction for Ad-Free Subscription in EU Amid Privacy Scrutiny

Meta Platforms Inc. has announced its proposal to reduce the cost of its ad-free subscription services in the EU. This change comes as Meta seeks to align with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) and addresses ongoing privacy concerns surrounding its advertising practices.

During a workshop held in Brussels, Meta’s legal representative, Tim Lamb, disclosed the company’s intention to lower the subscription price, aiming to address privacy concerns while complying with the DMA. Reuters reported that Meta suggested nearly halving the current subscription fees from €9.99 to €5.99 per month for individual accounts on Facebook and Instagram, with a further reduced rate of €4 for each additional account.

Matthew Pollard, a spokesperson for Meta, confirmed the accuracy of these reports, emphasizing the company’s eagerness to reach a “steady state” in its compliance efforts. However, whether Meta will actually implement this price reduction depends on feedback from the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), Meta’s primary data protection regulator within the EU.

Regulatory and Pricing Controversies

Meta’s operations in the EU are influenced by a suite of regulations, including the GDPR, DMA, and DSA. These regulations enforce strict consent standards for data usage, especially in advertising, and designate Meta as a key player in digital platform services.

The proposed pricing strategy by Meta has ignited discussions among privacy advocates, focusing on:

  • Regulatory Compliance: The European Commission’s inquiry into Meta’s “consent or pay” model, exploring its alignment with the DMA and DSA.
  • Economic Coercion: Critics, including privacy rights group noyb, argue that Meta’s model of offering users a choice between paying for privacy or accepting ad tracking does not comply with the GDPR’s requirement for consent to be “freely given.”
  • Pricing Strategy: The debate over whether the proposed price reduction sufficiently addresses the underlying consent issue, with noyb founder Max Schrems suggesting that the approach itself, regardless of the price, may not be legally sound.

Schrems highlighted research indicating that even minimal fees can significantly influence user consent dynamics, pushing a vast majority towards accepting tracking. He argues that the core issue lies not with the specific amount charged but with the overall approach of forcing a choice between payment and privacy, which he believes does not constitute “freely given” consent as required by the GDPR.

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Featured Image courtesy of dpa/picture alliance via Getty

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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