A new European law restricting what companies can do with people’s online data would protect 1.9 billion Facebook users around the world, thanks mostly because of the fact the company's international HQ is in Ireland so that it can enjoy tax breaks.
However, according to Reuters, Facebook is making changes that ensure the number will be much smaller.
Next month, Facebook is planning to make that the case for only European users, meaning 1.5 billion members in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America will not fall under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect on May 25.
Facebook is terrified of the EU's GDPR, which allows European regulators to fine companies for collecting or using personal data without users’ consent and can fine the outfit up to four percent of global annual revenue for infractions. The recent Cambridge Analytica fiasco would have cost Facebook billions.
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.
However, earlier this month, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told Reuters that his company would apply the EU law globally “in spirit” but stopped short of committing to it as the standard for the social network across the world.
What that means is that the 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,
Certain types of data such as browsing history, for instance, are considered personal data under EU law but are not as protected in the United States, he said.
The Irish didn't realise that they had become so important or that they were going to lose responsibilities to the United States. It would logically mean that Facebook’s presence in Ireland, where the social network is seeking to recruit more than 100 new staff, would have to decrease.
Other multinational companies are planning changes. LinkedIn, a unit of Microsoft, tells users in its existing terms of service that if they are outside the United States, it has a contract with LinkedIn Ireland. New conditions that take effect May 8 move non-Europeans to contracts with US-based LinkedIn.
LinkedIn said in a statement on Wednesday that all users are entitled to the same privacy protections. “We’ve simply streamlined the contract location to ensure all members understand the LinkedIn entity responsible for their data”, the company said.