Facebook and the GDPR: Straightforward or Shady?

Facebook and the GDPRDid Facebook transfer billions of user profiles off Irish servers and onto California ones? It sure did. Why? Well, of course nobody knows for sure, but word on the curb is that the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a new EU online privacy law, is to blame.

Facebook and the GDPR: An Upcoming Online Privacy Law

According to VICE News, Facebook transferred profile data for 1.5 billion users out of Ireland and into Silicon Valley. Why the shift? Industry watchers suspect it’s an effort to avoid the General Data Protection Regulation which goes into effect on May 25th. (link)

A comprehensive online privacy law, the GDPR gives users more control over online data. Under the new statute, companies must freely provide access to all collected data on demand. Plus, it institutes stricter informed consent and data storage standards.

Is Facebook Being Tricky With Its Language?

As everyone knows, Facebook’s reigning monarch, Mark Zuckerberg, recently testified in front of Congress. During the grilling, he insinuated that soon-to-launch GDPR compliance tools would now be rolled out globally, not just in the EU.

But now Reuters reports that data for Africa, South America, Asia, and Australia has been teleported from Ireland to Silicon Valley, presumably to sidestep the regulatory change.

Micheal Veale, a researcher at University College London, seems surprised by the news, telling VICE News: “The way [Facebook has] done it is astounding.”

But back to the central question: Is Facebook being shady? Not really.

For starters, Zuckerberg was very careful not to make any blanket promises at the hearing. Secondly, in a follow up call after the Reuters story dropped, Zuckerberg averred:

“Overall I think regulations like this are very positive. We intend to make all the same controls available everywhere, not just in Europe.”

Though, he did go on to note:

“Is it going to be exactly the same format? Probably not. We’ll need to figure out what makes sense in different markets with different laws in different places. But let me repeat this, we’re going to make all the same controls and settings available everywhere, not just in Europe.”

Does that still feel like overly cautious, equivocating language? A Facebook spokesperson did contact TechCrunch after Zuckerberg’s statements went public and clarified that yes, the company would roll out GDPR compliance globally, but may not use the “controls and settings” everywhere.

Hmmmmm. For the moment, we’ll have to sit back, observe, and see how this unravels.

Are Facebook’s New GDPR Controls Tricky?

In the interest of balance, we should also note that some pundits feels the social network designed its new GDPR compliance system so that “most users will end up sharing more and not less information with the company.”

Again, we don’t want to imply that Facebook is trying to shirk the GDPR. It isn’t. To wit, the company already published new platform policies. But the data migration is noteworthy; something on which to keep your legal eagle eyes glued.

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