The EU’s Data Protection Board (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.

In October last year, the social media giant said it would be possible to pay Meta to stop Instagram or Facebook feeds of personalized ads and prevent it from using personal data for marketing for users in the EU, EEA, or Switzerland. Meta then announced a subscription model of €9.99/month on the web or €12.99/month on iOS and Android for users who did not want their personal data used for targeted advertising.

At the time, Felix Mikolasch, data protection lawyer at noyb, said: “EU law requires that consent is the genuine free will of the user. Contrary to this law, Meta charges a ‘privacy fee’ of up to €250 per year if anyone dares to exercise their fundamental right to data protection.”

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    It followed requests by the Dutch, Norwegian, and Hamburg Data Protection Authorities and complaints about Meta, the social media company that owns Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

    “Most users consent to the processing in order to use a service, and they do not understand the full implications of their choices,” EDPB chair Anu Talus said in a statement.

    But a Meta spokesperson said: "Last year, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the subscriptions model is a legally valid way for companies to seek people’s consent for personalized advertising.

    In November last year, privacy activist group noyb (None Of Your Business) filed a complaint with the Austrian data protection authority against Meta for introducing the subscription model.

    At the time, Felix Mikolasch, data protection lawyer at noyb, said: "EU law requires that consent is the genuine free will of the user.

    In February, consumer groups filed their own complaint to stop Meta giving EU users a “fake choice” between the subscription offer and consenting to being profiled and tracked via data collection.


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