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The backstory: Facebook, Instagram and pretty much every major social media platform uses data collection from their users to show targeted ads, which are more effective than just showing random ads to random people. In the EU alone, Facebook has 258 million users who all experience targeted ads and 257 million Instagram users – according to Meta’s own monthly estimates.
More recently: This year, the EU has been cracking down on social media data collection and user privacy invasion since the Digital Services Act (DSA) started going into effect this year. So, social media companies need to figure out how to work within these regulations while still making money.
In August, Meta announced that it would be moving toward a more clear consent model for targeted ads, so users in the EU, the rest of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland have to opt in for their data collected on Instagram and Facebook to be used for advertising. Now that users have to choose to allow data collection, social media platforms need a way to make up for inevitable losses in ads. One way to work around these new rules and stay afloat is to start charging users who opt out of targeted ads.
The development: On Monday, Meta announced it’s officially launching paid subscription services in the EU, EEA and Switzerland. This ad-free experience will be available for around €9.99 a month on the web and €12.99 a month through the iOS and Android apps. This service is set to roll out in November, and users can link their Facebook and Instagram accounts to avoid being double-charged. But, starting next March, an added fee of €6 a month for web and €8 for mobile will apply for additional accounts.
Meta says that the experience of using their apps won’t change for subscribed users, except for the shift in ads. Subscriptions are only available for users who are 18 or older, with the company currently figuring out how to make an ad consent model work for its teen users according to regulations.
“We believe in an ad-supported internet, which gives people access to personalized products and services regardless of their economic status,” Meta said in a recent statement. “It also allows small businesses to reach potential customers, grow their business and create new markets, driving growth in the European economy. And like other companies, we’ll continue to advocate for an ad-supported internet, even with our new subscription offering in the EU, EEA and Switzerland. But we respect the spirit and purpose of these evolving European regulations and are committed to complying with them.”
“If we move to a pay-for-your-rights system, it will depend on how deep your pockets are if you have a right to privacy,” said Max Schrems, a privacy activist in Austria who is legally challenging Meta. “We are very skeptical if this is compliant with the law.”