EU Charges Meta Over Consent, Pay Model

pay model, meta, eu , dma, digital markets act

The European Commission is charging Meta over its consent or pay model, which fails to comply with the DMA.

  • Meta does not offer experience that does not collect and use personal data.
  • Unless it fixes that, Meta could be facing a hefty fine.

Meta’s new consent or pay model fails to comply with the European Union‘s (EU) Digital Markets Act (DMA): however, compliance could lead to a less personalized app experience.

Social media networks built their empires off your personal data. For instance, they use basic information like your name, age, gender, and location to show you content and ads relevant to your age group and gender demographic. This way, you are more likely to click on an ad. A 24-year-old woman most probably won’t click on an ad for a table, while a 50-year-old man most probably won’t click on a Forever 21 ad. There are other ways that personal data enhances user experience as well.

The EU has been unhappy with how Big Tech is handling its treasure trove of data. Hence, the DMA addresses the block’s concerns about data privacy.

We’ve Talked about This, Meta…

Most of the gatekeepers, including Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, have changed their operations to satisfy the EU, although the block was not impressed with their attempt at getting away with the bare minimum. According to the European Commission, Meta’s new consent or pay model falls extremely short of fulfilling the DMA’s requirements.

Under this new model, Meta gives users two choices. Users can either…

  1. Pay a fee to have an ad-free experience on Facebook and Instagram.
  2. Consent to receive personalized ads.

An ad-free experience on the web would set the user back €9.99 per month, while on iOS and Android it will cost €12.99 per month. But don’t be fooled by the layered payment process, because even if the user pays the fee, Meta will still collect personal data to provide a personalized experience on its platforms. So, it’s still a win-win, but not for you; it’s for the big guys.

A European Vision into Meta’s Practice

The Commission sees that this binary choice is detrimental to users, as it forces them to consent. Meta’s consent or pay model does not provide a less personalized but equivalent experience. TikTok, for example, allows users to scroll without needing an account. Sure, the videos they watch do not cater to the user’s specific preferences, but they offer a similar experience minus personalization.

In their defense, Meta spokesperson told CNN that they complied with a previous ruling, “Subscription for no ads follows the direction of the highest court in Europe and complies with the DMA.”

No Data, No Personality

Less data collection means less personalization. While troublesome for Meta, it may not be the worst thing for users. The fewer details about a user’s online behavior, preferences, and personal information are tracked and stored, the more protected a user’s privacy is. This avenue also gives users control over their data at a time when it’s one of the most coveted items. An interesting aspect of a less personalized algorithm is the diversity you’d be introduced to. It decreases the chances of a user being stuck in an echo chamber where all their beliefs, good or bad, are parroted back at them without introducing nuances.

While many may start using Facebook if it offers such an experience, many want the personalized experience but do not want to be used as a data mine. So, the issue in Meta’s consent or pay model is that some don’t care for the presence of ads, but they do not want their personal data used for personalizing that. And that’s where Meta is dropping the ball the most.  

Final Thoughts

It feels like Facebook has been around since the dawn of the Internet. We all accepted that it was what it was. And when TikTok came around with its personal data free option, we never stopped to question why none of Meta’s platforms offer the same. The EU is not trying to get rid of Meta’s consent or pay model, but rather have it offer a third option.

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