Austrian activist Schrems broadens Meta privacy complaint

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Privacy activist Max Schrems’ advocacy group Noyb on Thursday expanded its complaint about Meta Platforms’ paid no-ads subscription service as it urged Austrian authorities to investigate the difficulty users face in seeking to avoid being tracked.

In November, Noyb had told the Austrian Data Protection Authority that Meta’s no-ads subscription service launched in Europe was equivalent to having to pay to ensure privacy.

Meta has said the service that applies to Facebook and Instagram aims to comply with EU rules that users must be given a choice whether their data can be collected and used for targeted ads.

Users who consent to be tracked get a free service, supported by advertising revenues.

“While one (free) click is enough to consent to being tracked, users can only withdraw their consent by going through the complicated process of switching to a paid subscription,” Noyb said in a statement.

It urged the Austrian watchdog to order Meta to provide users with an easy way to withdraw their consent and also to fine it.

Meta defended its subscription service, saying that other sectors were doing the same.

“Subscriptions as an alternative to seeing advertising are a well-established and economically viable business model spanning many industries, from news publishing and gaming to music and entertainment. That’s why we believe it is the best compliance solution,” a spokesperson said.

The complaint will likely be forwarded to the Irish data protection watchdog that oversees Meta because it has its European headquarters in Ireland. A ruling by the Irish privacy watchdog would apply across the 27-country bloc.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Barbara Lewis)