Meta’s recent introduction of a subscription-based, ad-free service in the European Union, aimed at navigating the complex web of EU data privacy regulations, has hit a roadblock. The privacy rights group noyb in Austria has filed a complaint against Meta’s approach, terming it a ‘pay or okay’ model that allegedly manipulates user consent.
Under this new system, EU users face a choice: pay a monthly subscription fee for an ad-free experience on Facebook and Instagram or continue using the platforms for free while consenting to be tracked and profileed for behavioral advertising purposes. The pricing is set at €9.99/month on the web or €12.99/month on iOS or Android, with additional charges applicable from March for multiple linked accounts.
Noyb argues that the subscription fee is exorbitant, especially when compared to the average revenue Meta generates per user in Europe, which was reported to be around $16.79 (approximately €62,88) annually between Q3 2022 and Q3 2023. In contrast, Meta’s subscription plan could cost users nearly €120 to over €250 annually, depending on their account usage, a figure significantly higher than Meta’s reported earnings per user.
This legal challenge against Meta’s new subscription model in the EU raises significant questions about the ethical implications of monetizing user privacy. While Meta seeks to comply with EU regulations, its strategy could be seen as coercing users into paying to protect their privacy, setting a concerning precedent in the digital space. The outcome of this case could have far-reaching implications for how tech giants navigate privacy laws while balancing their revenue models.