Facebook and Instagram may offer paid, ad-free plans in Europe to sate EU privacy concerns

Meta may add a paid subscription option to Instagram and Facebook in Europe, according to The New York Times. The ad-free tier is meant to address European Union (EU) regulations that have diminished some of Meta’s most lucrative data-collection methods. The company said in April that advertising in the EU made up 10 percent of the company’s total revenue.

The move would be the first time Meta has deviated from its standard model of a single free platform supported by advertising (and associated data collection). The NYT says the company would continue offering free ad-supported versions of Facebook and Instagram in the EU. It’s unknown exactly when the company would launch the ad-free tiers or how much they would cost.

Company “insiders” cited by the NYT believe offering a paid ad-free variant could help “alleviate some European regulators’ concerns,” even if few people use it. The optional tier “could serve Meta’s interests in the region,” they added.

An ad-free option for European users would mark one of the most significant splits between consumer tech in the EU and the US. Meta and other social platforms have been forced to adapt as the GDPR and other regulations take hold. The EU fined Meta €1.2 billion in May for moving EU citizen’s data to US-based servers. In addition, the company was fined €265 million in 2022 for failing to prevent millions of Facebook users’ mobile numbers (and other data) from being scraped and posted online.

“This shows that tech companies are complying with the E.U.’s digital regulations, suggesting that they remain beholden to governments and not the other way around,” Columbia University law professor Anu Bradford told The New York Times.

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