Wednesday, 23 October, 2019

Facebook Attempts to Limit Reach of EU Privacy Law

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Sandra Phillips | 20 April, 2018, 01:54

Facebook, like many other US technology companies, established an Irish subsidiary in 2008 and took advantage of the country's low corporate tax rates, routing through it revenue from some advertisers outside North America.

For Facebook users outside the US and Canada, whether they know it or not, is now subject to the rules of use that have been established by the worldwide headquarters of the company in Ireland.

Facebook is quietly changing its terms of service to shift 1.5 billion users away from Europe to the U.S. while continuing to claim it wants to offer greater privacy protections.

If a new European law restricting what companies can do with people's online data went into effect tomorrow, nearly 1.9 billion Facebook Inc users around the world would be protected by it.

The move, reported by Reuters today, comes as the EU prepares to begin enforcing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) next month, and it means that only European Facebook users will immediately gain the personal data protections offered by the law.

Facebook has introduced privacy safeguards for users around the world that ensure it complies with the GDPR, asking users explicitly to review important privacy information before features like facial recognition are enabled, for example.

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In a letter to Zuckerberg on Wednesday, the EU assembly's president, Antonio Tajani, said that Europeans hit by the scandal "deserve a full and thorough explanation from Facebook's top manager".

Facebook has acknowledged its plan to shift the legal jurisdiction of 1.5 billion users, but in response to questions has repeated the line that it "applies the same privacy protections everywhere, regardless of whether your agreement is with Facebook Inc or Facebook Ireland". Instead they will be governed by more lenient USA privacy laws, said Michael Veale, a technology policy researcher at University College London.

All that is needed is a provision that any big Internet company doing business in the European Union would be required to offer the EU's end user license agreement (EULA) as an option for all accounts, no matter where they lived. India is yet to adopt a data protection law.

This vulnerability points to an opportunity for the European Union to radically change the world.

That said, Facebook does have part of a legitimate argument in shifting non-Europeans away from its European terms of service since the GDPR will require some changes that won't make sense outside the continent: such as the concept of a Data Protection Officer, or new requirements on moving data outside Europe.

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