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Facebook Subscription: Meta to Charge for Tracking Opt-Out

Simon Coulthard October 31, 2023

5-minute read

California - Meta is introducing a paid Instagram and Facebook subscription option for users who don’t want to be tracked.

This is a response to the European Court of Justice’s decision in July 2023 that Meta’s handling of user data is illegal without the consent for data processing activities needed under GDPR.

The social media giant will charge users up to €228 a year for a service that respects their fundamental right to online data privacy.

And given Meta’s influence, this could be the beginning of a new era that makes data privacy unaffordable.

Read about this new policy on the Meta website.

Facebook Subscription - Meta Charging Users Who Want Their Privacy Rights - TWIPLA Website Intelligence

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Facebook Subscription Details

Meta has announced a new paid subscription option, which will be available to users in the EU, EEA, and Switzerland.

Starting in November, users will have a choice: continue using Facebook and Instagram for free or pay a monthly subscription fee to stop seeing ads targeted based on their personal data.

For those that are prepared to pay, prices depend on how they access the platforms. It will cost €9.99 per month for desktop users or €12.99 for mobile users.

And from March, users will then have to pay more money for each additional account with Meta. This change will affect individuals with both a business and personal account, for instance.

Initially, only individuals aged over 18 will have access to the paid Instagram and Facebook subscription. But looking to the future, Meta is looking into how it can target children with ads in the EU without breaking the rules.

But of course, the €405M fine handed to Instagram for breaching child privacy suggests they should really take the time to think about this properly.

By giving users a choice to use their platforms for free - and in their eyes consenting to their data collection practices - Meta believes that it will meet the data privacy requirements laid out by GDPR and other European-wide data laws.

And for those that do decide not to pay, the company says that the experience for Facebook and Instagram users will not change, with all existing ad preference tools to remain available.

Profits Over Privacy

Meta said in its press statement that the Facebook subscription was about addressing EU concerns, rather than making money.

That feels disingenuous. Meta certainly believes in an ad-supported internet. It’s where the company makes its money. In 2022, the social media giant generated eye-watering revenue of over $116 billion. And while Meta also sells augmented and virtual-reality products, its primarily source of income is overwhelmingly advertisement sales.

As such, it’s hardly surprising that Meta is looking for a work around to ensure that it will continue to profit from the personal data of its users, one way or another. The company currently makes nearly $40 annually per user by selling their personal information to third-party companies.

Facebook Subscription Means Paying for Your Rights

Meta’s plan to introduce a paid subscription plan for its services is nothing more than an attempt to sidestep its data privacy responsibilities as laid out by GDPR and other global data privacy laws.

It comes hot on the heels of Facebook’s legal problems in Norway, and across the EU.

In July, it lost a court case against a German data restriction order as the Court of Justice of the European Union - Europe’s top court - backed the German antitrust watchdog’s power to investigate data privacy breaches.

Meta was also fined €390 million earlier this year by Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner, which argued that it had no legal basis to send users ads based on their online activity.

Meta’s own actions also confirm that the move is designed to circumvent these restrictions, with the company speaking with regulators in Ireland and Brussels to understand the effectiveness of this move back in September.

It believes that the option of a paid subscription plan for its services meets Article 7 of GDPR, which covers conditions for consent. For by refusing to opt for the paid option, Meta believes that users are therefore consenting to data collection under the free plan.

But the money they want for this opt-out is ridiculously high. In effect, users are expected to pay up to €228 a year to preserve their fundamental right to privacy on Instagram and Facebook alone.

This figure is five times more than what they already earn from users for their personal data. Not that they will continue making this sum from free users either, meaning that it feels like a deliberate insult to anyone that takes their online data privacy seriously.

Dangerous Precedent

Of course, some will jump at the chance to claw back control over their information from Facebook.

More than 77% of internet users - or approximately 3.59 billion people - are active on at least one of Meta’s platforms. People are more privacy-conscious than ever, and have been crying out for a way to ensure that their online data is not shared by Meta with third-party platforms.

But time will tell just how many will actually put their hands in their pockets and pay to stop both this intrusion, and the intimately personal ads that dominate their feeds.

Ultimately, users aren’t usually happy about paying for services that they can use for free. Just ask Elon Musk, with the disdain towards paying blue check holders obvious to anyone that uses the platform.

However, he’s also planning to introduce an ad-free Premium+ service. TikTok has equally been testing a subscription that remove ads, though this won't be introduced globally for the moment.

But if Meta succeeds, it could single-handedly undermine the feasibility of fundamental data privacy online. Given its power and influence, we could soon see such “pay for your privacy” subscriptions rippling out across the internet. If this happens, it would turn online privacy into a cash grab for digital companies during what is a fraught time for them financially already.

EDRi certainly thinks so. And as Europe’s largest network that works to defend rights and freedoms online, their article about Meta plans paid subscription for users who don’t want to be tracked is well worth a read.

Facebook Subscription - Meta Charging Users Who Want Their Privacy Rights - TWIPLA Website Intelligence

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Our advanced website intelligence solution will enable anyone to grow their website quickly, while protecting visitor data rights

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That's the Facebook Subscription Rub

Meta's introduction of a paid plan for privacy-conscious users is just another move in the cat-and-mouse game between Big Tech and privacy regulators.

It's also no real surprise. Paid subscriptions are becoming all the more common. Paying for privacy is also a fertile avenue for businesses that want to sustain profits, while staying privacy-compliant.

However, it's a real kick in the teeth for privacy advocates, and could make the fundamental right to data privacy unaffordable for many.

However, the internet has long been a data privacy mess. And the flip side of Meta's move is it further ratchets up public awareness about data privacy.

If you're interested in making the internet a more secure place for internet users, then you can start by choosing third-party integrations that don't use personal data or target internet users with advertisements that manipulate them with their own data.

TWIPLA is one attractive option. We're an all-in-one website intelligence solution with privacy built in. The platform doesn't collect personal data,. Nor do we share data with third parties. It enables website owners to collect the insights they need to grow effectively, while keeping their visitors safe.

So sign up to TWIPLA and see just how powerful cookieless tracking has become.

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