Meta might charge you to use Facebook in Europe. Is this finally the end?


Is social media worth paying for? We’re about to find out.
Mark Zuckerberg. Image: Getty

A new report suggests the company may move to a subscription model in Europe to avoid the EU entanglements around advertising and privacy, according to The New York Times.

At issue is how your data in that region is transferred to the U.S. where Meta is based, and then how that data is farmed out to advertisers, according to The Verge.

Most of us already know how this works. It’s not magic and no one is listening to your conversations through a webcam.

It’s much more basic than that. When you are on Facebook and click a sponsored ad, Meta records that interaction in a split-second and starts sending you more ads along those lines.

It’s a bit crazy how immediate and efficient that is. I’ve noticed how merely clicking on one sponsored post about disc golf led to a barrage of disc golf ads within the next few minutes.

Frankly, it works. I ended up buying a few discs, because the ones I own have a way of making their way into the dark forest by my house.

The question those EU regulators keep asking, over and over again, is whether this type of tracking is really legit and, even more importantly, if it violates the GDPR.

Privacy comes in all shapes and sizes. Most of us think privacy is related to our name, credit card information, and maybe our phone number.

I’ve often wondered if a small disc golf company like Innova knowing my shopping habits qualifies as a privacy invasion. At the same time, most users find the customized ads intrusive and invasive, even if they put up with them.

For Meta, it doesn’t really matter how they define privacy in light of this advertising model. The laws exist.

The EU has fined Meta for data protection violations before, and the fact that the social media giant is even considering a work-around says something about whether the fines are making them nervous.

Unfortunately, the solution reveals a lot about the state of social media.

For starters, I’ve often wondered if there is enough value in social media to warrant paying for the privilege. In Europe, the social media app is not nearly as popular as it is in other countries.

One example — I’ve been to Europe several times, and very few people bother to sell their stuff on Facebook Marketplace (since they still use Craigslist). It’s just not as common to post baby pictures and what you had for supper in that region of the world.

This could be the first real litmus test of social media’s business value. If Meta does move to a subscription model it would be the first time we will find out if people are willing to keep using Meta’s apps if they have to pay for them.

Here’s my prediction on that: I don’t think they’ll pay the subscription fees. To me, a subscription model means you have to think.

You have to consider whether something has enough value or not. You have to evaluate your options.

Maybe there’s another app like LinkedIn that helps you accomplish the same goals. Maybe Craigslist isn’t so bad after all (they still don’t show you ads after so many years).

I’ll be curious to see if Meta does start charging European users to use the service, and then watching closely to see if the active user numbers drop off a cliff.

This article was first published on and all figures are in USD.

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