Facebook has announced that its United Kingdom customers will be migrated to a US user agreement in 2021. The move is a response to the end of the Brexit transition period on 31st December, after which time the country will no longer be covered by EU laws. Until recently, customers in Blighty were covered by agreements with Facebook’s European headquarters in the Republic of Ireland, in order to comply with European Union data protection laws, including GDPR. When customers are migrated back to Facebook’s California base, they will no longer have the same protections, although the company will have to meet the equivalent UK laws, which are expected to mimic GDPR, in the short to medium term.
Facebook has said that it plans to move all non-EU countries over to the US agreement and has hinted that it could consider moving EU residents too if it feels the regulations it is working under have become too unwieldy. The company has confirmed, however, that its GDPR-compliant security controls page will be rolled out globally. In a statement to Reuters, it purrs soothingly: “We apply the same privacy protections everywhere, regardless of whether your agreement is with Facebook Inc or Facebook Ireland,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said in an interview that it will apply GDPR rules globally “in spirit”. What that looks like in reality is a different matter, because Facebook has been clobbered with multiple fines from the EU and will doubtless be keen to find a way to duck its jurisdiction.
The news comes at a difficult time for Facebook, which is already under investigation under competition rules, which could lead to it being forced to sell off WhatsApp and Instagram, which, the case claims, it bought in order to stifle competition. Given that Britons voted for Brexit under the promise of ‘taking back control’ from the European Union, this is just one more slice of reality – it has taken back control, and handed it straight to the US. Not really what campaigners had in mind. Other big tech firms are already getting ready for the changes too, with LinkedIn moving all non-EU customers to Microsoft’s US base, whilst Google did the same thing in February when the UK “officially” left the EU and entered the current 11 month transition period which expires on New Year’s Eve.
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