Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, introduced a paid subscription for ad-free versions of their platforms in Europe starting November 2023.
Presented as "a choice to use Facebook and Instagram without any ads," the move is the company's solution to comply with a ruling by the E.U.'s top court stating that, under the GDPR law, it must obtain consent before showing ads to users. The order said that Meta's data handling in the EU was illegal from 2018 (adoption of GDPR) up to 2023. But it was also a practice that made the company one of the world's most profitable. The "pay or ok" model is their solution to comply with the data and privacy laws and protect profits.
"Pay or ok" model. From Journalism to Big Tech
The "Pay or OK" model was first introduced by an Austrian newspaper, "Der Standard." The paper offered readers a similar choice: consent to data processing for ads or pay a fee. Data regulators initially allowed them to use this model, envisioning it as help for the struggling media sector, which was losing ad revenue to big tech.
However, the GDPR doesn't differentiate between media houses and tech companies when it comes to data consent, which allowed Meta to adopt the same model.
So, here we are today, facing this question: should we pay big tech not to use our data?
In Meta's specific offer, European users who want to opt out of ads can pay 9.99 euros a month for desktop and 12.99 euros on iOS or Android devices. For the first several months after its rollout, the ad-free subscription will apply to all accounts linked to one user in their Accounts Center, meaning switching profiles won't disrupt the ad-free experience. After February, Meta will impose an extra fee of 6 euros a month on the web and 8 euros a month on mobile for each additional account. (source: nbcnews.com).
The core question here is whether it's ethical to put a price on a fundamental right. In the worst-case scenario, if paying for privacy becomes largely normalized, it threatens to create a tiered system where a basic right becomes a luxury available only to those who can afford it.
Think of how much you value your data and privacy today. Are you doing everything you can to protect it? It's not too late to start if you don't.
Find out how much of your private information is on the internet, who uses it, and how.
With Bitdefender's Digital Identity Protection, you can see all your old and new accounts and take action to reduce the amount of valuable data you are giving away for free.
Read more about our identity protection and privacy solutions here.