Amidst apologies over mishandling user data and the affirmation that the company is “offering everyone who uses Facebook the same privacy protections, controls and settings, no matter where they live,” the social network recently confirmed plans to shift all users outside the European Union (EU) to a Terms of Service agreement governed by US regulation. Currently, EU users agree to Terms of Service (ToS) under Irish law as the majority of Facebook’s EU user base is located in Ireland.
The move comes after EU announced plans to roll out a new, “game changing” policy aimed at protecting user privacy. The new regulations, dubbed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), would fine companies that breach user privacy up to 4% of their annual profits. For Facebook, that would mean about $1.6 billion dollars based on 2017 reports.
Earlier this month, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook would adhere “in spirit” to GDPR guidelines worldwide, but he did not confirm if this meant that US users would receive the same protection as those in the EU. The GDPR would affect up to 70% of Facebook’s user base, and moving users in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America from non-EU to US-governed terms and conditions would exempt Facebook from following GDPR guidelines. The social platform opened operations in Ireland in 2008, taking advantage of low corporate tax rates.
Under the new EU regulations— which will take effect next month— Facebook will have to ask users for permission to use their information for advertising purposes, but there will be no option to decline. This means that Facebook will continue to use their own data on user behavior in order to show targeted ads, and users will have to accept these terms via “permission screens” in order to view certain content.
According to a April 17th Facebook blog post, “People in the EU will start seeing these requests this week to ensure they have made their choices ahead of GDPR coming into effect on May 25. As part of our phased approach, people in the rest of the world will be asked to make their choices on a slightly later schedule, and we’ll present the information in ways that make the most sense for other regions.” However, Tuesday’s announcement about shifting users to ToS governed by US legislation raises questions about the motives behind the move as doing so means that Facebook will not be subject to GDPR sanctions.
Addressing reporters at Facebook corporate offices, Facebook Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Rob Sherman said that “Facebook users will be able to limit the kinds of data that advertisers use to target their pitches” but the option to opt-out completely will not be available. Sherman also added that “People can choose to not be on Facebook if they want.”
Last week, Ben Swann reported in a Reality Check episode about issues of privacy and data collection that were widely publicized following the news of personal data mishandling by Cambridge Analytica.