Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has recently rolled out its first ad-free subscription option for users in response to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implemented in 2018. This update allows users in the EU, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, to choose between using the social media platforms for free or opting for an ad-free experience by paying €9.99 per month on the web or €12.99 per month on iOS and Android. This move comes after Meta received a billion-dollar fine earlier in 2023 for transferring data on European users to the United States.
For users who subscribe to the ad-free option, Meta assures that no data will be used for advertising purposes. Alex Dziedzan, a policy communication spokesperson at Meta, emphasizes that first-party data won’t be utilized for targeted advertising, but will still be used for functions unrelated to advertising.
Users who opt for the free version permit Meta to use their information for targeted advertising. Meta initially argued that consent wasn’t required for hyper-specific advertising targeting adults in the EU before introducing this new subscription tier.
As for the availability of this ad-free option in the United States, it remains uncertain, contingent on potential future legislation for more robust data privacy regulations.
How to Get Ad-Free Facebook
If the ad-free option is available in your region, you’ll encounter a pop-up the next time you log in to Facebook or Instagram, offering the choice to sign up for the ad-free social media experience. This pop-up is part of Meta’s compliance with the GDPR, ensuring users are aware of the choice.
The subscription costs €9.99 per month when signed up on the web, with an additional €3 monthly charge for those using the smartphone app. This subscription covers both in-app and web browsing.
To sign up or manage your subscription, navigate to the Settings of your Facebook or Instagram account. Initially, a subscription can cover multiple profiles, but Meta plans to increase the price for users with more than one account in March of the following year.
Despite ad-free options being common in services like Netflix, Meta’s subscription plan has faced criticism from privacy experts. Thorin Klosowski, a security and privacy activist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, characterizes it as a “pay-for-privacy scheme,” expressing concerns that access to online privacy becomes exclusive to those with disposable income.
Dziedzan, however, disputes this characterization, pointing out existing privacy options available to all users and asserting that GDPR and other privacy laws still apply to free service users.
Privacy advocates, including Klosowski, maintain their opposition to Meta’s advertising practices, arguing that paying to escape behavioral advertising adds complexity and discomfort for users.