European Union Sets Deadline For Facebook Changes

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EU regulators want Facebook to alter its ‘deceptive’ terms of service to clearly state that it sells consumers’ data to third parties – or face sanctions

The European Commission has told Facebook to make changes to its terms of service by the end of the year or face sanctions.

The dispute is one of several between Facebook and the Commission, with others notably including the company’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

At issue in the current case are changes the Commission asked Facebook and other companies, including Airbnb and Twitter, to make to comply with European consumer protection laws.

In Facebook’s case, the changes are concerned with clarifying to users the ways in which their data is used.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook's Parse Developer Day, 2013. Credit: Facebook
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. Image credit: Facebook

Delays

The Commission demanded the changes in February and repeated them in July, but says Facebook has delayed coming into compliance.

By contrast, Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said she had reached an agreement with Airbnb over a clearer presentation of charges.

Airbnb has agreed to make the modifications, which are aimed at helping users avoid unexpected charges such as cleaning fees, by the end of the year.

Facebook said it had made changes and would continue to cooperate.

But Jourova said she had lost patience after nearly two years of discussions.

“Progress is not enough for me, I want to see results,” Jourova said at a news conference. “We cannot negotiate forever.”

Consumer ‘deception’

The Commission said that while Facebook has made changes, it continues to tell consumers that their data and content “is used only to improve their overall ‘experience’”, while failing to mention that the company uses the data for commercial purposes, selling it to third parties.

Jourova said she would call on EU member states’ consumer authorities to take “swift” action against Facebook in the new year if the changes were not “fully implemented” by then.

Facebook said an update to its terms of service in May addressed “the vast majority” of the issues that had been raised.

“Our terms are now much clearer on what is and what isn’t allowed on Facebook and on the options people have,” Facebook said.

It added it would work in “close cooperation” with regulators to “understand any further concerns” and make updates.

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