Everything You Need to Know About the ‘Pay or Consent’ Model for Data Tracking

For internet users in 2024, data tracking has become a seismic issue. Every time you browse the internet – whether you’re doing online shopping, communicating with friends on social media, or watching videos on YouTube – you’re leaving a digital footprint that is then harvested by data brokers.

Once your information is with a data broker, it is subject to what they choose to do with it. Many will sell to third parties, while others will use it to create their own individual profile.

The Problem With Data Tracking 

One example of this is the site MyLife, which was founded in 2002. This is a brokerage firm that gathers personal information and generates a ‘MyLife Public Page’ for users to peruse. As of 2024, it’s possible to access over 750 million profiles, which include everything from your name, your job, and even your address.

Thankfully, due to the growing awareness of the problem, it is possible to opt out of MyLife and delete your information from the internet in general. But the problem of data tracking is still very real, and it isn’t helped by initiatives from companies like Meta.

What Has Meta Done?

Last year, Meta made the controversial move to switch to a ‘Pay or Consent’ model for data tracking. This means that users in the EU would have to pay if they didn’t want to be tracked and profiled on their platforms – including Facebook and Instagram. Currently, the price for an ad-free subscription is 9.99 euros on the web and 12.99 euros on mobile. If users don’t want to pay for the subscription, then they are essentially ‘agreeing’ to have their data tracked, processed, analysed, and profiled.

What is the Problem With Meta’s Model?

The problem here – at least, according to the majority of users and consumer rights groups – is that the model essentially asks you to pay for your privacy. According to a statement released by the European Consumer Organisation, BEUC, this model seeks to ‘coerce consumers into accepting the processing of their data’, which isn’t helped by the fact that Meta has ‘no valid legal basis for processing people’s data for ad targeting’ in the first place.

Under GDPR rules, the company is collecting and processing personal data that goes against imposed regulations, including the principles of data minimisation, purpose limitation, fairness and transparency.

The Future of the ‘Pay or Consent’ Model

As users, we’re at a worrying crossroads in the data tracking story, where either companies like Meta will be stopped, or the commodification of privacy will become a new trend.

While consumer rights groups have been filing complaints against ‘consent or pay’, it is unclear at this point whether they will be successful, and it’s unlikely that users will delete Facebook or Instagram accounts in response.

Either way, data brokering is a practice that is not going away. With the market set to reach nearly $550 billion by 2028, it is still up to you the user to take your data into your own hands and work to fight against the system. Right now, that is the most clear-cut and effective way to protect yourself in the 2024 data-tracking climate.

Daniel Odoh
Daniel Odoh

A technology writer and smartphone enthusiast with over 9 years of experience. With a deep understanding of the latest advancements in mobile technology, I deliver informative and engaging content on smartphone features, trends, and optimization. My expertise extends beyond smartphones to include software, hardware, and emerging technologies like AI and IoT, making me a versatile contributor to any tech-related publication.

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