Meta Offers Paid Ad-Free Subscription For Facebook, Instagram

Meta Platforms confirms it will begin offering an ad-free paid subscription option for Facebook and Instagram, in an effort to comply with European privacy legislation.

The paid subscription is for Facebook and Instagram users (aged 18 and over) in the European Union, as well as the EEA (European Economic Area, i.e Europe, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), and Switzerland. The UK, of course, is not part of the EU or EEA.

In order to see no adverts on their feeds, Facebook and Instagram users in those countries or blocs can pay a web (desktop) subscription cost of €9.99 (£8.73) per month, or €12.99 (£11.36) per month for iOS or Android users.

No adverts

The move to offer a paid subscription option for Facebook and Instagram was first reported at earlier this month, with sources indicating the ad free option would arrive in the coming months.

The higher price for mobile users (as opposed to web/desktop users) is down to app store fees charged by Apple ad Google.

In a blog post, Meta confirmed however that the move to offer a paid subscription offering was down to EU privacy legislation.

“To comply with evolving European regulations, we are introducing a new subscription option in the EU, EEA and Switzerland,” Meta confirmed. “In November, we will be offering people who use Facebook or Instagram and reside in these regions the choice to continue using these personalised services for free with ads, or subscribe to stop seeing ads. While people are subscribed, their information will not be used for ads.”

Meta said that the fee will cover all linked Facebook and Instagram accounts until 1 March 2024, when Meta will start charging €6 for each additional account on the web and €8 for smartphones.

Court ruling

Meta is rolling out the subscription option because of EU privacy legislation and a court ruling.

Under the EU’s Digital Markets Act legislation, Meta’s social networking platforms has to gain explicit consent before tracking a user for advertising purposes.

Meta in January 2023 had been hit with a €390m (£343m) fine from Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC), after an EU ruling that Meta’s legal justification for targeting users with personalised ads broke EU data laws.

The European court of justice, the highest in the European Union, ruled that under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Facebook cannot justify using personal details to target people with personalised ads unless it receives their consent first.

Meta reasoning

Meta’s main revenue stream is from providing adverts.

“We believe in an ad-supported internet, which gives people access to personalised products and services regardless of their economic status,” the firm blogged. “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.”

Meta said that in August it had announced its intention to move people in the EU, EEA and Switzerland to the GDPR legal basis of “Consent” for the purpose of processing data collected on our own platforms for advertising purposes.

“We made that change to address a number of evolving and emerging regulatory requirements in the region,” said Meta. “This includes how our lead data protection regulator in the EU, the Irish Data Protection Commission, is interpreting GDPR following a recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and anticipating the entry into force of the Digital Markets Act (DMA).”

“The option for people to purchase a subscription for no ads balances the requirements of European regulators while giving users choice and allowing Meta to continue serving all people in the EU, EEA and Switzerland,” it added. “In its ruling, the CJEU expressly recognised that a subscription model, like the one we are announcing, is a valid form of consent for an ads funded service.”

Meta said that users that choose to continue to use its products for free, will see no difference in their experience. These users can still utilise Ad Preferences, which offers a range of controls that enable the user to influence the ads they see as well as the data used to inform these ads.

Meta also said that advertisers will be able to continue running personalised advertising campaigns in Europe to reach those who choose to continue to receive a free, ad-supported online service.

Advertising importance

Facebook (as it was back then) actually began offering advertising capabilities way back in 2007 when it launched its Facebook Ads platform.

But the firm actually introduced adverts into people’s Facebook newsfeeds back in 2012 – a move that proved to be unpopular, and many Facebook users still remain unhappy about the development.

However for a number of years now Meta has been considering an advert-free version paid by subscriptions.

Indeed CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared to hint at such a possibility when he was grilled for two days by various US Congress committees in April 2018 about the Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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