back to article Meta accused of enrolling undecided EU users in ad-sponsored platform

Meta has been accused of automatically enrolling Europe-based users of its Facebook social network into the ad supported version of the service if they've not yet chosen between the free and paid subscription options, an action which would violates EU rules. To comply with European law, Meta last October announced it would …

  1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    If they know that the penalty for non-compliance is too small to notice compared to the cost of compliance then why the fuck would they comply? The lawyers are on the payroll, so already costed in. Until they are fined amounts large enough to make a dent in their turnover and share price then they'll just keep going until the rest of the world hasn't got enough money to go to court.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      The lawyers are on the payroll

      This was the reason for the statutory independence of the Data Protection Officer role under the GDPR (Articles 37(5) and 38(3)) -- which (not surprisingly) the UK govt. is aiming to abolish.

  2. Tubz Silver badge

    Time for the regulators to stop pussy footing around with Mega Corps and start hitting them with massive fines for deliberately ignoring GDPR and local laws, maybe a nice 10% of yearly global profits. They only listen when hitting profits, even bad PR does nothing these days.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Additionally, as well as swingeing fines, they should make them pay back all turnover they made from the illegal acts from the date that the lawsuit was opened. If the ad-slinger says this is too hard to calculate then just start at 100% unless they can prove different. This will stop them dragging court cases out.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        "they should make them pay back all turnover "

        And it should be turnover, not profit.

        I was considering adding a punitive percentage as well, but turnover should be sufficient.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Meta can simply cite the "Pay or Okay" model which has sprung up on European news websites and which national regulators have permitted.

      They would argue that the user is already using "Okay" for cookies, that consent came from okaying their initial use however many years it was ago, and all they need to do is go to the cookie options page to toggle from "Okay" to "Pay" (or something similar, I don't have either Facebook or Instagram).

      1. Tubz Silver badge

        Nope, it's Pay, Adverts or Delete, when Meta changed the T&Cs etc, they need to request consent again. You can't expect consent given 20 years ago to be valid for the entire life of membership, thats why you get the occasional email saying we are changing T&Cs and if you don't agree, you can leave/delete whatever the options are. Meta (Zuck and his board of privacy sucking vampire) are just assholes who think they can do whatever they like because of he their vast profits and highly paid, expert vermin, sorry I mean lawyers.

    3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Time for the regulators to stop pussy footing around with Mega Corps and start hitting them with massive fines for deliberately ignoring GDPR and local laws, maybe a nice 10% of yearly global profits. They only listen when hitting profits, even bad PR does nothing these days.

      Fines are just a cost of doing business, unless they get sufficiently large that they upset shareholders. A better solution for repeated criminal behaviour would be throwing executives in jail for contempt, or expanded penalties that can jail them for a decent amount of time. The prospect of 5yrs in a non club fed prison might focus their minds a little more about not breaking the law.

      But given the lobbying and revolving doors (see Nick Clegg), that will probably never happen, especially when bodies like the EU need Big Tech outfits like Facepalm to implement their Minitruth.

    4. Jedit Silver badge
      Headmaster

      "maybe a nice 10% of yearly global profits"

      As pointed out by another Reg user, this is actually less than the fines already being imposed - 10% of turnover, not just profit.

      But even if it weren't, no company is ever going to change its ways based on a partial loss of profit. They'll simply jack the prices up so they earn the same, and thus ultimately the consumer will pay the penalty for their own abuse. And even prison sentences won't affect the bosses - they'll just pass responsibility for the illegal actions a few steps down the ladder. No; if you want to stop a company like Meta from flagrantly breaking the law, you need to make it impossible for them to make money from the practice.

      1. hedgie

        Re: "maybe a nice 10% of yearly global profits"

        Absolutely. Any percentage-based fines or the like have to come from revenue. Otherwise, one is simply inviting inventive accounting to ensure that there are no "profits" to begin with like in the film and recording industries.

    5. jmch Silver badge

      GDPR already allows fines of up to "up to 20 million euros, or in the case of an undertaking, up to 4 % of their total global turnover of the preceding fiscal year, whichever is higher."

      Meta's 2022 revenue was $116.6bn, so GDPR fines can be as high as $4.66bn. Givenb their net profit for 2022 was $23.2bn, that's a hefty enough amount to concentrate the mind.

      Of course one can look at it the other way, that Meta only make a 12-figure revenue *because* they screw their users over ads, in which case even a $4.66bn fine can be seen as a cost of doing business.

  3. Dippywood

    Like it will make any difference...

    "Meta on Monday said it plans to ask EU users of Facebook and Instagram to make another choice: whether or not to share information across the two services."

    What a wonderful track record Meta has for keeping its word on such things. Say 'yes', say 'no', they'll gobble your data anyway, just like they promised not to for WhatsApp.

    1. Dinanziame Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Like it will make any difference...

      In this case, they'd be better be sure they don't get caught. The fines for not complying with DMA regulations are 10% of global turnover, so for Meta that'll be $10B. Fines are doubled for repeated infringement.

      1. I am David Jones

        Re: Like it will make any difference...

        Which means it makes financial sense to spend hundreds of millions on lawyers.

        And which regulator can invest/risk the resources to square up to that onslaught?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ha! I won! I won!!!

    I am one of the people (in Switzerland) who has seen the popup on Facebook for a few months, and who steadfastly refused to make a choice. I just logged in for the first time in a few weeks, and not only the popup has gone, but it seems that Facebook is not showing me any ads!

    1. seven of five

      Re: Ha! I won! I won!!!

      If this is supposed to be a victory, I dread to see a defeat.

  5. lglethal Silver badge
    Go

    Catch 22...

    I was thinking of deleting my account. I havent used Facebook for about 10 years, so why not. Then I got the pop-up. I either had to pay them to login without being tracked (in order to delete my account), or accept there tracking me, to delet my account.

    But with the second option, I have no doubt that Meta would continue to track me through all of those little tracking items embedded in other websites. So my deleting my facebook account would not stop them tracking me, and collecting my data.

    So I'll wait and see what the regulators finally decide, (whilst hopefully giving Meta a good kicking). Assuming they show sense and prevent the tracking, then I'll go in and delete the account. Until then I guess I'm on hold...

    1. Lurko

      Re: Catch 22...

      "So I'll wait and see what the regulators finally decide, (whilst hopefully giving Meta a good kicking)"

      Can't see it myself. Just because the "up to" fines can be huge, they're always pretty trivial to the corporations who cop them. They could fine Zuck a billion euro, and that's what, a week's global profit. Zuck won't notice, he's already richer many times over than all readers of this website put together*. Block his business until it complies, that'll make him sit up and take notice - but politicians and regulators rarely think like that, and if they did block FB, millions of users would be whining to their elected representatives that nasty regulators had stopped them spewing their small brains out to the Facebookweb.

      * Yes, I can't prove that.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Question

    Not that I am going to, but if I paid, would it show me posts from people I know instead of endless videos of stuff I don't care about?

    Not that I've visited the site for ages.

  7. WonkoTheSane
    Trollface

    Ho Hum

    I guess my days of not having a Facepalm account are certainly coming to a middle...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What should they do?

    I don't use it at all but as an interested bystander, what should they do?

    - User logs in

    - FB shows choice "see ads or pay?"

    - User refuses to answer

    - At this point if they are not allowed to assume any answer they have to deny access, right?

    That would cause a bit of user outcry too, I imagine.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: What should they do?

      That would cause a bit of user outcry too, I imagine

      Why, when it is so simple to fix by making a choice? You can't complain that a pop up that asks you to make a choice has been ignored for months and they stop serving you (though they should let you login once with a final "make a choice or your account will be deactivated" popup)

      There was never any world in which all EU users get Facebook for free AND without ads. If they are required to provide it like that (which obviously everyone would choose) then they would simply drop the EU entirely because it would cost them money to provide infrastructure there with no revenue to offset those expenses.

      1. Lurko

        Re: What should they do?

        "If they are required to provide it like that (which obviously everyone would choose) then they would simply drop the EU entirely because it would cost them money to provide infrastructure there with no revenue to offset those expenses."

        Well, that would be a better world, wouldn't it? All those zillions of hours EU citizens would have to go and do something worthwhile, or enjoyable instead.

  9. RegGuy1 Silver badge

    We're told that everyone who has used Instagram and Facebook in the EU, ...

    That made me laugh. Me neither. I did try to go on the website once because someone said they were posting the stuff I wanted to read there, but it kept insisting I tell them something about me just to get on. No thanks. If, when someone sends me a link, I have to jump through hoops just to view it, then no thanks. I'll simply move on. One of the best things about the Internet is just how big it is.

    1. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: We're told that everyone who has used Instagram and Facebook in the EU, ...

      I upvoted you, but...

      Far more commerces than actually makes any kind of sense seem to regard their farcebork page as a tick against the "online presence" checkbox. Most of them actually have web sites of their own, which they never update. Even more bafflingly, their FaecesBok pages requires logging in to access. I'm never going to do that.

      Nuke the whole thing from low orbit, I say.

      -A.

  10. MarthaFarqhar

    'It's free and always will be"

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