Facebook is under continuous pressure following the events of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, with Mark Zuckerberg still facing calls to appear in front of various political communities across the world. However, on 24th April 2018 in an article published by Reuters it emerged that Facebook are to exclude billions of their users from the protection of tighter data regulations.
From a business perspective, this proposed move by Facebook appears to be a sensible one. Here, the company hopes to reduce the impact of the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulations.
As its data protection credentials are currently under intense scrutiny, if these reports are correct a huge chunk of its audience are to be excluded from protective measures offered under the GDPR guidelines, with 1.5 billion users residing in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Latin America are apparently set to be excluded.
Yet as Facebook is very much up in the air in terms of public opinion after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, with many people being completely divided on the matter, is showing you are excluding billions of people from upcoming data protection really the best move?
Currently, Facebook users outside of the US and Canada are governed by the terms of service agreed with the company’s international headquarters in Ireland. With Ireland in the EU (for now at least), they would be governed by the GDPR regulations. However, Facebook is instead limiting it to just European users, but changing the Irish HQ’s reach.
The new EU law allows for fines for up to 4 percent of global annual revenue for serious infractions, and this move will lessen a huge potential liability.
However, with the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which billions of users’ personal data was mined and used without their knowledge to potentially swing political campaigns, excluding users away from increased, tighter data protection regulations may not be such a good idea in terms of regaining trust of Facebook users.
At the same time, Facebook appeared to play down the importance of this terms of service change, in a statement given to Reuters, by saying it plans to make the privacy controls and settings 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,” it added.
The 1.5 billion users in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America however will instead be governed by more lenient US privacy laws, and they not be able to file complaints with Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner or in Irish courts.
Moving users away from tighter data protection regulations and towards more relaxed laws will have the potential to damage trust yet again between users and Facebook.
The US privacy laws are nowhere near as tight as GDPR, as well as being vague and complex. This opens the door for manipulation, malpractice and a further erosion of trust.