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Facebook and Instagram Subscription: Meta adds a paywall

You might have seen by now: Meta has launched a paid subscription option across its platforms, Facebook and Instagram. This Facebook subscription allows end users to subscribe for a fully ad-free experience. According to Meta, this paywall is a way of complying with European regulations.

facebook subscription

NOYB files a complaint against Meta with the Austrian Data Protection Authority. European users face a controversial choice on Instagram and Facebook: consent to data tracking for personalized ads or pay a substantial annual fee of up to €251.88 for their data privacy. This practice, seen as a “privacy fee,” is criticized for its high cost. Industry statistics reveal a mere 3% of users favor tracking, with over 99% avoiding payment when confronted with such fees. The precedent set by Meta could lead to wider implications – if unchallenged, similar strategies by other companies could mean privacy costs soaring to about €8,815 yearly for an average smartphone user with 35 apps.

Following the complaint by noyb, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), along with 18 of its member organizations, lodged a formal grievance with the European Commission on November 30, targeting Meta’s controversial “pay-or-consent” model as a violation of EU consumer law. This move by BEUC marks a distinct approach from that of noyb; instead of addressing a national data protection authority, BEUC brought its case directly to the European Commission, framing its accusations primarily as infringements of EU consumer legislation rather than EU data protection statutes.

What is a Facebook subscription?

On October 30, 2023, Meta announced a new subscription model for Facebook and Instagram. Users in the EU, European Economic Area and Switzerland can now choose whether to continue to use Meta platforms for free, with personalized ads, or pay a fee to stop seeing ads.

The price of the Meta subscription varies depending on the device used:

  • €9.99/month on the web;
  • €12.99/month on iOS and Android.

Meta’s decision is a way of responding to complaints regarding its data processing activities and complying with European regulations. Earlier this year, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) had declared that Meta’s method of bypassing user consent was unlawful. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) also backed this view, confirming that Meta’s data usage practices were illegal in the EU from 2018 to 2023.

Are paywalls allowed in the EU?

According to the GDPR, consent should always be freely given. That’s why EU Data Protection Authorities are generally against the use of a paywall. However, in the last year, more and more EU DPAs have declared that the paywall system would be acceptable if users are properly informed about what they are consenting to and the paywall system actually provides an equal alternative to consent.

The discussion around this topic is still quite heated. However, Meta isn’t the first company to implement a paywall on its platforms. Many others – mostly publishers – have already introduced a paid option as a way of respecting users’ privacy rights while preserving their ability to be profitable.

Lawful ways to recover consent

If you’re a publisher or a business that monetizes content, then you should know that there are a few effective ways for consent recovery, that can help you optimize your earnings while respecting users’ privacy rights.

For example, iubenda has meticulously crafted several features that bridge the gap for optimal consent rates and a satisfying user journey, to help you boost your revenue:

  • Our Consent Recovery feature allows you to display a custom message instead of the pre-blocked scripts and iframes, maximizing your opportunities to obtain users’ consent.
  • Our flexible Cookie Paywall strategically limits access to content based on user consent preferences.
  • Our Reverse Proxy guarantees uninterrupted cookie consent collection, by navigating around ad-blockers.

iubenda makes it really easy for you to set up and choose the consent recovery method that’s best for you!

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