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Meta facing more European criticism for “pay or okay” business model


Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram,  has attracted more controversy with  the European Data Protection Board(EDPB) issuing an opinion opposing the company’s controversial “pay or okay” business model insisting the binary approach was not compliant with the EU’s data privacy rules.

The EDPB has told large online platforms they should not offer users a binary choice between paying for a service and consenting to their personal data being used to provide targeted advertising.

Last year Meta was fined a record Euros 1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) and ordered to stop transferring data collected from Facebook users in Europe to the United States which violated European Union data protection rules.

Consumer rights organisations have now accused Meta of further violations of GDPR principles, citing difficult consent withdrawal and unfair data processing arguing the company’s data collection is invasive, involving sensitive details like behaviour and political views.

The “pay or okay” or “pay or consent” model, introduced in November 2023 by Meta, gives customers the option of using the services at no cost if they consent to Meta processing their private data, or opt for a paid subscription model, with Meta refraining from processing their data.

In response to Meta’s move, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and the non-profit digital rights organisation NOYB both filed separate complaints against the company whose headquarters are in California.

Ursula Pachl, deputy director general of BEUC has said :”Its (Meta’s) unfair “pay-or-consent” choice is the company’s latest effort to legalise its business model. But Meta’s offer to consumers is smoke and mirrors to cover up what is, at its core, the same old hoovering up of all kinds of sensitive information about people’s lives which it then monetises through its invasive advertising model.”

The Dutch, Norwegian, and German supervisory authorities asked the EDPB, an independent body tasked with ensuring the consistent application of data protection rules in the EU, to issue an opinion.

In the EDPB’s opinion, major online platforms will not be compliant with requirements of the EU’s data privacy regulation “if they confront users only with a binary choice.”

The EDPB added: “The offering of (only) a paid alternative to the service which includes processing for behavioural advertising purposes should not be the default way forward for controllers.”

A Meta spokesperson told Euractiv: “Last year, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the subscription model is a legally valid way for companies to seek people’s consent for personalised advertising,”, adding that the “EDPB Opinion does not alter that judgment.”

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