European consumers challenge Meta’s ‘pay or consent’ service. Here’s why

Consumer organisations from various EU nations have lodged formal complaints against Meta, alleging that the tech giant is unlawfully handling user data and employing its “pay or consent” mechanism to mask privacy violations.

Complaints have been filed by consumer groups from the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, and Spain, media reports said.

Meta, previously known as Facebook, has faced criticism for its alleged lucrative practice of selling user data to advertisers. This has sparked confrontations with EU authorities regarding data privacy regulations.

Meta, last year in November, introduced a “pay or consent” system enabling users to abstain from data utilisation for targeted advertising by paying a monthly fee.

However, privacy advocates have raised concerns over its legality.

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) labeled Meta’s system “a smokescreen to obscure the real problem of massive, illegal data processing of users which goes on regardless of what users choose.”

BEUC’s Deputy Director General, Ursula Pachl, emphasised the need for data protection and authorities to intervene, stating, “It’s time for data protection authorities to stop Meta’s unfair data processing and its infringing of people’s fundamental rights.”

BEUC’s report also accused Meta of violating GDPR principles by lacking transparency and overcollecting user data for commercial gain.

The report said, “Meta seems to be of the opinion that in order for the company to earn money with advertising, it is justified to collect any imaginable data on consumers’ activities, location, personalities, behaviour, attitudes and emotions.”

“In reality, the massive exploitation of the private lives of hundreds of millions of European consumers for commercial gain fails to respect various fundamental principles of the GDPR,” it added.

Under Meta’s model, European users can opt out of data sharing for a monthly fee ranging from 10 to 13 euros. However, BEUC argues that this approach coerces consent, which is against GDPR requirements.

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