Facebook and Instagram owner Meta has been hit with another legal complaint over its attempt to work around new restrictions imposed on it by the Digital Services Act (DSA). (Photo illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)

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Meta’s Digital Services Act workaround under fire again

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Facebook and Instagram owner Meta has been hit with another legal complaint over its attempt to work around new restrictions imposed on it by the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA).

Online consumer group the European Centre for Digital Rights (NYOB), a non-profit organisation based in Austria, announced it was filing a complaint against the company on November 11, in relation to Meta’s new ad-free subscription service.

As part of the new product, users can pay €9.99 a month to get access to Facebook and Instagram without advertising.

Users who opt for such a plan will also not have their data gathered for the purposes of selling advertisements, a feature Meta claims fulfils its privacy requirements under the DSA.

NGOs including NYOB have contested this, arguing that locking the privacy measures behind a paywall goes against the spirit of the new legislation.

In its filing, NYOB claims the system also prevents users from easily withdrawing their agreement to be tracked for advertising.

“Once users have consented to being tracked, there’s no easy way to withdraw it at a later date,” the organisation argued. It said users have “no choice” but to pay the monthly subscription if they want to opt out of having their data harvested for advertising purposes.

It also complained that the ability to withdraw such consent via payment was buried within several menus on Meta’s services, something it said makes changing one’s mind harder than the single click needed to initially agree to be tracked.

“The law is clear, withdrawing consent must be as easy as giving it in the first place,” said Massimiliano Gelmi, an NYOB lawyer.

“It is painfully obvious that paying €251.88 per year to withdraw consent is not as easy as clicking an ‘Okay’ button to accept the tracking.”

Speaking to Brussels Signal, a representative from Meta said it would not give specific comment on this latest legal complaint.

The company went on to repeat its claim that its subscription-based model complied with the DSA.

“‘Subscription for no ads’ addresses the latest regulatory developments, guidance and judgments shared by leading European regulators and the courts over recent years,” it said.

Meta had previously highlighted that numerous other international tech companies had rolled out similar programmes at a similar price point without issue.

These include Google’s YouTube, Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch and web forum Reddit, it said.