In Depth

Facebook ‘hides’ 1.5 billion users from privacy protection

Social network moves users out of reach of new European laws

Facebook is about to move 1.5 billion users out of reach of new European privacy laws by shifting responsibility for them from its international headquarters in Ireland to its US office. They will then be governed by US law rather than Irish law.

The change will be made shortly before the new EU rules – the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR – come into force, says The Guardian. It is happening despite a pledge by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to apply the “spirit” of the GDPR legislation worldwide.

The 1.5 billion people affected are all users outside the US, Canada and the EU. They will all now be subject to looser US legislation rather than the strict new EU rules.

Facebook insists it will be offering the “same privacy protections, controls and settings” to all users “no matter where they live”. Zuckerberg told Congress earlier this month that the GDPR controls would be applied to all Facebook users, not just those in the EU.

However, The Guardian notes that Zuckerberg talked of “controls” not “protections” – and the timing of the shift from Ireland to the US seems suspicious to data campaigners.

New settings, ‘same old bullsh**t’

Yesterday, Facebook announced the latest revision of its privacy settings, designed to satisfy the GDPR requirements. According to The Register’s Kieren McCarthy, the new settings are “the same old bulls**t”.

“To be clear,” says McCarthy, “Facebook's entire business model is built on gathering as much information as possible on you and then figuring out how to use that information to make as much money as possible.”

He suggests that the new settings try to bore users into giving consent for their data to be shared, arguing that they are neither adequately specific nor transparent.

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