The tech giant confirmed its plans for a subscription model last year, which offers users paid versions of its apps to avoid targeted advertising.

Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta is facing fresh flak from consumer groups across the EU for its new subscription model, which sees users either pay for an ad-free version of its apps or consent to targeted advertising.

The model has been dubbed a ‘consent-or-pay’ smokescreen that aims to justify a massive collection of data, a practice that complainants have said is illegal under the GDPR.

Today (29 February), eight consumer groups from the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) network are filing complaints with their national data protection authorities against Meta. Participating groups come from various countries including Spain, France, Denmark and Greece.

The new model was first reported on late last year and later confirmed by Meta. It means EU users of Meta apps Instagram and Facebook have a choice between using the apps for free with personalised ads enabled or signing up to a monthly subscription for an uninterrupted and privacy-friendly experience.

Ursula Pachl, deputy director general of BEUC, said the new model is Meta’s latest effort to justify “massive commercial surveillance” on its users.

“Meta’s offer to consumers is smoke and mirrors to cover up what is, at its core, the same old hoovering up of all kinds of sensitive information about people’s lives which it then monetises through its invasive advertising model,” she said. “Surveillance-based business models pose all kinds of problems under the GDPR and it’s time for data protection authorities to stop Meta’s unfair data processing and its infringing of people’s fundamental rights.”

This is the second time BEUC has filed a complaint over Meta’s new model. While today’s complaint is in relation to GDPR, the network also filed a complaint with consumer protection authorities to denounce the misleading and aggressive practices of the company.

Privacy rights group NOYB also filed a complaint last year, saying that consent to online tracking and personalised advertising is only valid if it is freely given and that Meta’s new subscription model should be seen as a “privacy fee”, which NOYB said is the “exact opposite of a genuinely free choice”.

When announcing its new model, Meta said it conforms to the direction given by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which “endorsed the subscriptions model as a way for people to consent to data processing for personalised advertising”.

“We remain committed to ensuring that people who choose to use our services for free continue to have a positive ad experience,” it said in a blogpost last year. reached out to the social media giant for comment on the latest complaints.

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