In 2021, NOYB – a civil rights group defending digital privacy – submitted multiple complaints directed at the cookie paywalls of seven German and Austrian news websites. In March the Austrian data protection authority (DSB) made the ruling that readers be able to choose either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this type of cookie paywall – something commonly used by media outlets that require users to give permission for data processing or purchase a subscription fee.
The practice of erecting pay-walls requires individuals to either consent to data processing activities or sign up for a paid subscription plan. In the case of derStandard.at, this subscription is costing an annual fee of €96. According to NOYB, this price is disproportionate to what the outlet would gain from third-party advertising, clearly showing that the newspaper profits off the back of someone’s right to privacy protection.
Publishers, however, argue that these increments in content monetization furnish much-needed support for journalism. Further, they contend that ‘pay-or-cookie walls’ are a valid journalistic service in their own right and benefit the public by providing quality content.
The DBS’s decision will now go to the court in Vienna. While the dispute has since been reviewed by the Austrian data protection authority, outcomes from the German regulatory authorities remain pending.