in the face of European regulations, the challenge of paid subscriptions

Meta, TikTok, Snapchat, X… Several social networks want to offer paid subscriptions to their users. While highlighting the promise of new benefits, these subscriptions are also an attempt to circumvent European data protection regulations.

While Elon Musk is planning it make social network X (formerly Twitter) pay for everyone, it’s Meta’s turn to ask users to put their hands in their pockets. The parent company of Facebook and Instagram is preparing to launch a monthly subscription in Europe that would allow those who subscribe to it to stop seeing ads.

These new offers are becoming less and less rare on the platforms. On October 2, the TikTok app also confirmed that it was testing a paid version without ads. A revolution forced by the entry into force of a European regulation called the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in March 2024, which aims to better protect data.

Internet giants, DMA target

A few months after the fifth anniversary of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it’s DMA’s turn to shake up the platforms. The regulation, which aims to end the dominance of internet giants, imposes new legal obligations on them to share data. It focuses in particular on companies in a quasi-monopoly situation, called “gatekeepers” (literally access controllers), such as GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft).

They will no longer be able, among other things, to re-use the user’s personal data for the purposes of targeted advertising without his express consent. It is necessary that” this exact choice was presented to the end user and he gave his consent “, accurate Article 5 of the DMA. It is clear that every internet user has the option to refuse to have their personal data used for advertising targeting purposes.

This new European regulation follows a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which ruled on July 4 that Meta must obtain explicit consent from its users to collect their data. constitute consent.

Mitigate loss of advertising revenue

However, the economic model of social networks is based almost entirely on advertising, which brings much more when targeted thanks to the collected data. In the second quarter of 2023, Meta notably reported $32 billion in revenue, including $31.5 billion from advertising. In Europe, its second largest market after the United States and Canada, the company generated $7.2 billion.

After a historic decline in turnover and layoffs 13% of its employees in 2022then settlement and a record fine of 1.2 billion euros The following year, Meta therefore found itself forced, like others, to change its model to compensate for advertising losses. The company, which nevertheless promised that Facebook will always be free, offers several options: 10 euros per month for their Facebook or Instagram account on a computer, 13 euros for the application on a smartphone and 16 to 19 euros for a subscription. on both Facebook and Instagram, depending The Wall Street Journal.

For a fee, users who do not approve the use of their personal data for targeted advertising will retain access to the platforms. “ Consumers have more choice and it’s more clear » summarizes Alexandre de Streel, academic director of the Center for Regulation in Europe (CERRE) and professor of European law at the University of Namur (Belgium). ” This will highlight the fact that consumers are already implicitly paying with their data without realizing it. »

Basic rights cannot be sold »

It remains to be seen whether the proposed price is set at a reasonable level to offer users real choice. ” Regulators need to ensure that the paid version is not too high in relation to the price of the service it represents for Meta “, explains Alexandre de Streel. Nevertheless, it is a ” an inevitable trend if they want to comply with GDPR without losing turnover » according to an expert who is preparing for the arrival of similar offers on other platforms. According to him, social networks cannot be asked to offer a third alternative, where access would remain free, but without targeted advertising. ” These are private companies. Their services are charged, so you have to pay for them one way or another. Otherwise we can shut down Facebook and Google! »

In a similar matter, the National Commission for Information Technology and Freedom (CNIL) he was not opposed to monetary compensation for ” cookie walls “. Like the offer proposed by Meta, some sites offered to pay a certain amount to access content, even if advertising cookies were rejected. Method ” basically prohibited », specified the French administrative authority, if this monetary compensation is not ” likely to deprive internet users of real choice. »

However, the measure is under discussion. The Noyb Association, which fights for the protection of privacy, warned this Thursday, October 3, that it will not hesitate to take legal action if this project becomes a reality. ” Basic rights cannot be sold », insisted Max Schrems, the founder of the association.

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