A coalition of 28 organisations including Wikimedia Europe and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties has urged EU privacy enforcers to resist Meta Platforms’ paid no-ads subscription service.

Concerns have been raised that such a model, where users pay to protect their privacy, may become a precedent for other companies.

The appeal to the European Data Protection Board coincides with the impending issuance of guidance on the consent or pay model, prompted by inquiries from Dutch, Norwegian and Hamburg privacy watchdogs.

In a joint letter, the organisations assert that Meta’s service, applicable to Facebook and Instagram, ostensibly aligns with EU regulations by allowing users to choose whether their data is collected for targeted ads.

The controversy arises from the ‘pay or okay’ approach, where users consenting to have their data tracked receive a free service funded by advertising revenues.

“Under EU law, users have to have a ‘free and genuine choice’ when they consent to being tracked for personalised advertisement,” Austrian activist and lawyer Max Schrems said.

“In reality, they are forced to pay a fee to protect their fundamental right to privacy,” he added.

The coalition expresses apprehension that such an approach could undermine the General Data Protection Regulation, the robust European standard established in 2016, and erode practical safeguards against surveillance capitalism.

Schrems, who became known for his campaigns against Facebook’s privacy violations, said the 28 civil society organisations are calling on authorities to ensure “that fundamental rights do not become a commodity or a luxury good.”

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“This is likely the most important decision over EU privacy rights in a decade,” he said.