Facebook’s data protection credentials continue to come under intense scrutiny, with a huge chunk of users reportedly set to miss out on the protective measures offered under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Facebook is apparently set to exclude 1.5 billion users residing in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America under the GDPR protection.
Currently Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg is under intense pressure following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, with the CEO facing calls to appear before various political committees around the world.
Last month Zuckerberg declined to face British MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee to answer questions over data abuse.
Committee chair Damian Collins called the refusal “absolutely astonishing”.
But now according to Reuters, Facebook plans to put 1.5 billion users out of reach of the new EU privacy law.
It said that GDPR went into affect this week (instead of 25 May), almost 1.9 billion Facebook users around the world would be protected by it. But it reported that the social network is making changes that ensure the number will be much smaller.
This is because at the moment Facebook members outside the US and Canada are currently governed by terms of service agreed with the company’s international headquarters in Ireland.
Ireland of course is in the EU, and will therefore be governed by the GDPR regs.
But Facebook is changing Irish HQ’s reach, limiting it to just European users.
This means that 1.5 billion members in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America will not fall under Ireland’s reach, and with it the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Reuters said that the previously unreported move, which Facebook confirmed to it on Tuesday, shows the world’s largest online social network is keen to reduce its exposure to GDPR, which allows European regulators to fine companies for collecting or using personal data without users’ consent.
It will also remove a huge potential liability for Facebook, as the new EU law allows for fines of up to 4 percent of global annual revenue for serious infractions.
Facebook is estimated to have nearly 2 billion users, and the change will affect more than 70 percent of its total customer base. Facebook is known to have 239 million users in the United States and Canada, 370 million in Europe, and 1.52 billion users elsewhere in the world.
In a statement given to Reuters, Facebook played down the importance of the terms of service change, saying it plans to make the privacy controls and settings that Europe will get under GDPR available to the rest of the world.
“We apply the same privacy protections everywhere, regardless of whether your agreement is with Facebook Inc or Facebook Ireland,” the company said.
But in reality, the change means that 1.5 billion affected users will not be able to file complaints with Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner or in Irish courts. Instead they will be governed by more lenient US privacy laws.
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