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Meta Defends Charging Users For Privacy

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Meta last fall came up with an idea of how to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) (not to be confused with the Digital Services Act (DSA) – considered by critics to be a “censorship law”).

Namely, Meta announced at the time that in order to adhere to DMA, and allow an ad-free “experience” in the EU (but also in the European Economic Area, EEA, and Switzerland) Facebook and Instagram would offer subscriptions to privacy-minded users.

The problem with what Meta calls “a free, inclusive, ad-supported” internet is not just that ads are annoying – it’s that people actually do pay what turns out to be a pretty hefty price, i.e., with their sensitive personal data monetized by the giant for “personalized,” aka, targeted advertising.

But this “opt-out” (for a fee), or alternatively consent to data collection in order to continue to use the platforms (“for free”) idea didn’t go over well in the EU, for reasons presented by EU’s Commission is its typical barely-human-readable fashion.

As per the EC, the reasons are the following: the proposed Meta scheme “does not allow users to opt for a service that uses less of their personal data but is otherwise equivalent to the ‘personalized ads-based service,” and, “does not allow users to exercise their right to freely consent to the combination of their personal data.”

The enthusiasm of EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton for the EC findings published earlier this week – given his previous track record – does tempt onlookers to wonder if this decision really has to do with protecting competitiveness and users in Europe – or is yet another form of pressuring Meta, at a sensitive (political) time.

Whatever the case may be, also in general EU fashion, the Commission’s findings are only the beginning of a lengthy process that is expected to last for months, as Meta looks into the findings and tries to counter their arguments to defend its position.

What we know, thanks to a spokesperson’s statement, is that Meta will try to prevail in this controversy, among other things, by citing EU’s top court, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), as in 2023 “endorsing” its proposed scheme, which the giant asserts does comply with DMA.

If this fight is eventually lost, Meta can look forward to parting with 10 percent of global turnover, and fines up to 20 percent for repeat infringement.

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