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  • Updated: February 16, 2024

Rights groups slam Meta's strategy, urge EU regulator to act

Rights groups slam Meta's strategy, urge EU regulator to act

A coalition of more than two dozen organisations dedicated to digital and democratic rights has written a letter to the European Union's data protection regulator requesting that it oppose a controversial strategy used by Meta. 

Marked as "consent or pay," this strategy has generated a great deal of criticism as it tries to get around EU privacy regulations.

In light of the legal challenges brought forth by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Meta recently changed its policy to require user consent before monitoring and profiling. This is the key issue at hand. 

But with this method, customers are left with only two options: either agree to be tracked or pay a monthly price of €9.99 to enjoy an ad-free experience.

The GDPR requires that consent for data processing be freely provided, and some contend that this tactic goes against those requirements.

Nicknamed "pay or okay," the strategy has angered many, including long-standing accusations from noyb, a group that has filed a GDPR against Meta.

News publishers have used similar tactics before, but considering Meta's size and power, questions have been raised about its employment of this strategy. 

The importance of the problem is highlighted by the participation of democratic and digital rights organisations, especially in light of the calls from many data protection authorities for the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) to provide input.

The EDPB's position on "consent or pay" may have far-reaching ramifications for EU data protection rules. With a deadline approaching, the Board's judgement is highly anticipated, as it could either strengthen existing privacy safeguards or open the way for greater erosion of user rights.

At the heart of the issue is whether data privacy should be a fundamental right for all or a privilege reserved for the wealthy. The outcome of this discourse will likely influence the future of internet privacy and online business practices.

While the EDPB's opinion is noteworthy, it may not be the final word on the subject. The Court of Justice (CJEU) is expected to intervene, albeit any resolution from the top court is unlikely to be issued for several years.

In the meantime, the conclusion of the EDPB's discussions is extremely important, not just for Meta and its operations, but also for the overall landscape of internet privacy and user rights. As stakeholders await the Board's decision, the focus remains on its critical role in creating Europe's digital future.

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