If you’ve logged into Facebook, launched Instagram, or fired up Facebook Messenger recently, you may well have seen a message reading, “some features not available”. So, what’s going on?
Various restrictions have come into force because of new privacy laws that Facebook must comply with. It means that some “advanced options”, such as creating polls, are no longer available to millions of users. Facebook has revealed just what is happening.
As anyone affected by the limitations will be aware, Facebook apps give a vague explanation for the disabling of features. “This is to respect new rules for messaging services in Europe. We are working to bring them back”. This does not really provide much information, but Facebook has been forced to limit access to features that need to access the content of messages in order to function.
As the message points out, the changes only affect users in Europe.
In a post on the Facebook website, the company’s head of EU affairs, Aura Salla, says:
People using our messaging and calling services in Europe or interacting with friends and family in Europe may notice some changes to features on Messenger, Instagram and Facebook. In order to comply with the law, we needed to adjust the way our services work, such as further segregating messaging data from other parts of our infrastructure. Our goal is to make sure people can continue to connect privately while minimizing disruption. We prioritized core features, like text messaging and video calling, and have made sure the majority of our other features are available. However, some advanced features like polls that require the use of message content to work may be disrupted as we make changes to align with the new privacy rules. We’re working to bring back features that we can as quickly as possible, and our Help Center has updates for some of the features that are affected.
Salla goes on to explain: “The ePrivacy Directive also prohibits messaging and calling services from using data to prevent, detect and respond to child abuse material and other forms of harm. The European Commission and child safety experts have said that the directive does not provide a legal basis for these tools. The safety of our community is paramount, and we are advocating for changes that will allow us to resume our efforts to identify this type of material. This includes analyzing messaging metadata to identify patterns of abuse — an approach we believe can help keep our community safe while respecting the privacy of people’s message content. For example, we use metadata to share safety notices, identify potentially harmful accounts and protect children”.