• Sat. May 20th, 2023

Why you could be forced to pay for Facebook if Privacy Act recommendations are adopted

ByGurinderbir Singh

May 18, 2023

After decades of free access, Facebook users may be in for a shock.

Facebook parent company Meta is not ruling out charging users to access the social media site, as well as its sister site Instagram, according to Mumbrella.

The warning comes after the federal government’s proposed reform of the Privacy Act.

An Attorney-General’s Department review of the act in February proposed 116 changes. Major changes include allowing Aussies the ability to opt out of targeted ads, erase their data and sue for serious breaches of privacy.

“Strong privacy laws are essential to Australians’ trust and confidence in the digital economy and digital services provided by governments and industry,” Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said at the time.

“However, the Privacy Act has not kept pace with the changes in the digital world.”

Melinda Claybaugh, director of privacy policy for Meta, told Mumbrella that of the 116 proposed changes to the Act, Meta supported all but 10.

But it is the changes to targeted advertising she says Meta finds most alarming and could result in users having to pay for content.

“I think it’s fair folks are considering what controls might be important to give people, but I think this proposal goes much further by allowing people to opt out fully from targeted advertising – [but it] would require companies to still provide their services,” she said.

Ms Claybaugh said the shake-up of targeted advertising threatened to “undermine the value of personalised internet services that we all know, love and enjoy”.

Having targeted ads “allows companies to provide free or reduced cost services” and their removal would force some to “reconsider providing those services for free”.

“You’re essentially forcing companies to look at other revenue models,” she said.

Ms Claybaugh said it was “early days” on whether Meta would charge users but said it was “the fact of the matter that companies that rely on ads to provide free services would be forced to find another revenue source”.

She said concerns about targeted advertising to children or the use of sensitive data were valid but insisted Meta already mitigates those risks.

“For example we don’t allow advertisers to target ads to people abused on sensitive data,” she said. “We don’t allow invasive targeting of kids under 18.”

The concerns for Meta is if the definition could be applied more widely to content – not just ads – and that has significant implications.

“We think about personalisation as the ads we see, but really, targeting and personalisation is also about the content you see,” Ms Claybaugh said.

“The concern is you have to be able to target and personalise content to serve age-appropriate content to people under 18 … and to detect (and filter) problematic content.”

Mr Dreyfus has promised to consult on the reforms but has not specified a time frame for its response.


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