All Facebook users in the United Kingdom will be moved by the social media giant into user agreements with the corporate headquarters of the company in California instead of the current user agreement that they have with the European headquarters of the company in Ireland which effectively will put them out of the purview of the privacy laws of Europe.
Facebook is set to implement this change next year. A similar move was also made by Google in February this year. The tech companies that have their European headquarters in Dublin will see their legal relationship with Ireland change, since it will remain in the European Union, after the exit of the UK from the EU.
“Like other companies, Facebook has had to make changes to respond to Brexit and will be transferring legal responsibilities and obligations for UK users from Facebook Ireland to Facebook Inc. There will be no change to the privacy controls or the services Facebook offers to people in the UK,” said Facebook’s UK unit.
The privacy laws of the UK would still be applicable for the UK users of Facebook and the UK regulations on privacy tracks European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for now. According to reports citing sources familiar with the company, the EU privacy regime being one of the strictest in the world ids part of the reason why Facebook is making the change. Granular control to users over data about them is granted by the EU rules.
Further, it is now possible to more easily exchange data about cloud computing users between the UK and the US because of the US Cloud Act, which was passed in 2018.
But according to privacy advocates, an even looser data privacy regime may be adopted by the UK particularly when the country is trying to strike a trade deal with the US, where there is fewer data privacy protections offered to users. There are also concerns that a shift if user agreements to the US will make it easier to conduct surveillance of UK users by US intelligence agencies or to request users data by law enforcement agencies.
“The bigger the company, the more personal data they hold, the more they are likely to be subject to surveillance duties or requirements to hand over data to the US government,” said Jim Killock, the executive director of the UK-based nonprofit Open Rights Group. According to rulings by US courts, the available constitutional protections against unreasonable searches will not be applicable for non-citizens overseas.
With Brexit nearing, contact with Facebook along with companies keeping European headquarters is being maintained by them, said UK information industry regulators. “We are aware of Facebook’s plans and will continue to engage with the company in the new year,” said a spokeswoman at the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Twitter’s Dublin office will continue to handle the social media’s UK users, said a Twitter spokesman.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)