freeSince their IPO last spring, a major point of discussion at Facebook has revolved around how they intend to monetize the site.  For the most part, this has centred on the mobile traffic to the site and how they can get more money from mobile users.

What I’m sure they haven’t ever considered however is charging users to access Facebook, yet that could be on the horizons if proposed changes to EU data protection laws go ahead.

Yet that is the warning from Eduardo Ustaran, head of privacy and information at law company Field Fisher Waterhouse.

The law in question is the draft European Data Protection Regulation that is to be put before the European Parliament.  The legislation would cause havoc for companies that use their users data to sell advertising, so would include Facebook, GMail and others.

Ustaran has gone as far as suggesting that should the law be pushed through, these companies would have to fundamentally change their business models.

“If they weren’t able to use your data in the way that is profitable or useful for them for advertising purposes, then either the user has to pay for it or stop using the service,” he said.

The effect of the proposed regulations would mean these companies “wouldn’t be able to rely on legitimate interest and they wouldn’t be able to rely on consent”, he said.

His views have been echoed by Erika Mann, the head of EU policy at Facebook.

“We are concerned that some aspects of the report do not support a flourishing European digital single market and the reality of innovation on the internet – which is inescapably global in nature, and which includes important partners like the US. We will be examining these proposals closely in the coming weeks,” she said in a statement this week.

The new law is intended to protect users from sites making major changes to their terms and conditions after we’ve signed up.

Part of the proposed text for the European General Data Protection Regulation states: “Consent should not provide a valid legal ground for the processing of personal data, where there is a clear imbalance between the data subject and the controller.

“This is especially the case where… the processor or controller is in a dominant market position with respect to the products or services offered to the data subject or where a unilateral and nonessential change in terms of service gives a data subject no option other than to accept the change or abandon an online resource in which they have invested significant time.”

Once the final text is agreed it’s expected that the law could be in force by the end of the year, with states then given two years in which to start enforcing the law.

Would you pay to access Facebook?