EU Data Watchdog: Consent or Pay models must give users real choice

EU Data Watchdog: Consent or Pay models must give users real choice

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) today issued a statement today regarding online platforms that force users to choose between targeted advertising or paying a fee. The EDPB, the EU's data privacy authority, determined that most consent or pay models do not comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) standards for valid consent.

The opinion comes as large online platforms increasingly adopt consent or pay models. This practice presents users with a stark choice: allow their personal data to be used for behavioral advertising, or pay a subscription fee for an ad-free experience.

Last year, Facebook and Instagram offered a subscription plan for No Ads in Europe.

EDPB: Payment Should Not Be the Default

The EDPB stressed that offering a paid alternative as the only way to avoid targeted advertising "should not be the default way forward for controllers." Instead, platforms should offer a genuinely free service option that does not involve behavioral advertising.

"Online platforms should give users a real choice when employing ‘consent or pay’ models," said EDPB Chair Anu Talus. "The models we have today usually require individuals to either give away all their data or to pay. As a result most users consent to the processing in order to use a service, and they do not understand the full implications of their choices."

The EDPB outlined critical concerns in their opinion, including:

  • Conditionality: Fees for ad-free versions should not be so high as to coerce users into consenting to data processing.
  • Detriment: Users should not face negative consequences like exclusion from services if they choose not to consent to data collection.
  • Imbalance of Power: Companies must address uneven power dynamics that may exist, particularly with large online platforms dominating the market.
  • Granularity: Platforms must provide clear, specific options for consent or rejection rather than broad, all-or-nothing choices.

The Path Forward

The EDPB will be developing further guidelines on 'consent or pay' models and will be seeking input from stakeholders as these guidelines are refined.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) is an independent European body that works to ensure the consistent application of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) throughout the European Union.

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