Digital rights groups urge EDPB to reject Meta’s ‘pay or consent’ approach

A coalition of 28 digital rights groups urges EDPB to reject Meta’s ‘pay or okay’ model, citing GDPR violations and expressing concerns over its impact on privacy, favoring large advertising networks

A person's hand holding Meta's infinite sign.

As the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) prepares for a crucial decision on Meta’s ‘pay or okay’ approach, a coalition of 28 digital rights groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and non-profit organizations has come together urging the EDPB to reject this strategy. In an open letter, the organisations express their concerns and advocate for a more privacy-centric and equitable approach in the evolving data protection landscape.

Essentially, Meta introduced this approach in late October 2023, when it announced that users could either pay a subscription of €9.99/month for an ad-free subscription or consent to get personalized ads. Meta claimed that if users do not wish to pay for an ad-free subscription manager, advertisers will be able to continue running personal advertising.

Meta’s move came after the EDPB adopted an urgent binding decision instructing the Irish Data Protection Authority (the main data regulator for Meta and other US companies in the EU) to ban Meta’s behavioral advertising. Additionally, in July 2023 the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) recalled in the C-252/21 Bundeskartellamt that under Art.42 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), consent cannot be regarded as freely given if the data subject has no genuine or free choice or is unable to refuse or withdraw consent without detriment.

In their open letter the organizations argued that such an approach is not in compliance with the GDPR and that it would only benefit large advertising networks and big tech platforms which heavily rely on surveillance business model.

Why does it matter?

EDPB’s decision could change the data protection landscape of the EU citizens when using Meta’s services and thus undermine GDPR’s concept. As the organization pointed out in their letter: If ‘pay or okay’ is permitted, it will not be limited to news pages or social networks but will be employed by any industry sector with an ability to monetise personal data via consent.