European Watchdog Criticizes 'Consent Or Pay' Approach To Ad Targeting

Privacy officials overseas appeared to express disapproval of Meta's decision to require European Facebook and Instagram users to choose between accepting online ad targeting or paying subscription fees for ad-free versions of the services.

“In most cases, it will not be possible for large online platforms to comply with the requirements for valid consent if they confront users only with a binary choice between consenting to processing of personal data for behavioral advertising purposes and paying a fee,” the European Data Protection Board said in a non-binding opinion issued Wednesday.

The opinion comes nearly six months after Meta said it would charge residents of the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland monthly fees for ad-free versions of Facebook and Instagram on Android or iOS operating systems. People in those areas who didn't pay fees could continue to access the services, but only if they accepted personalized ads, Meta said in October.



Soon after Meta launched the subscription services, the privacy group noyb alleged in a complaint filed with Austrian regulators that the company was giving users “the exact opposite of a genuinely free choice.”

The European Data Protection Board issued its opinion at the request of Dutch, Norwegian and German authorities, who asked the agency to weigh in on whether large platforms can lawfully implement so-called “consent or pay” approaches to behavioral targeting.

Europe's broad General Data Protection Regulation requires companies to have a valid basis to process residents' data. That standard allows companies to process data if people consent, but only if the consent is “freely given.”

The European board said in its ruling that requiring people to either consent to behavioral advertising or pay for services “should not be the default way forward for controllers.”

The board added that large online platforms should offer users a free “equivalent” alternative to accepting behavioral advertising -- such as a service with ads that don't involve the processing of “less” personal data.

Next story loading loading..