Meta Unveils Ad-Free Paid Service For Europe

Aiming to placate European privacy officials, Meta on Monday unveiled an ad-free subscription option for Facebook and Instagram users in the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland.

The company says that starting next month, residents of that part of the world will have the option of paying around $11 or $14 a month (depending on location) for ad-free versions of Facebook and Instagram on Android or iOS operating systems. People in the covered areas can continue to access the services for free, but only if they accept personalized ads.

Meta said the paid option will enable it to comply with recent decisions interpreting privacy regulations.

“The option for people to purchase a subscription for no ads balances the requirements of European regulators while giving users choice,” the company stated.

In the last year, authorities in the Irish Data Protection Commission and Norway separately imposed sanctions on Meta over privacy violations. The authorities in Ireland fined the company around $411 million in January for allegedly serving ads to users based on their personal data without consent. The same agency also fined the company around $1.3 billion for transferring European users' data to the U.S.



Regulators in Norway in July ordered Meta to either obtain users' consent to online behavioral advertising, or pause serving ads to people based on their online activity or general locations. That order allowed Meta to continue serving ads to people based on information they put in their profiles, such as their cities, gender, age or interests they expressly provided. (Meta is separately appealing that order.)

It's not clear whether the Meta's plan to serve targeted ads to people who don't pay for subscriptions will comply with Europe's broad privacy laws -- which have been interpreted as requiring companies to obtain users' opt-in consent before harnessing their data for ads.

Justin Brookman, technology policy director at Consumer Reports, tweeted Monday that charging users to avoid ad personalization isn't legal in Europe. He added that Meta is “asking for an enforcement action (or several)” if it claims people who don't pay for ad-free versions of Facebook and Instagram have consented to receive personalized ads.

Next story loading loading..