Following Google’s lead, the social networking behemoth plans to switch British user’s legal responsibilities and obligations to Facebook Inc from Facebook Ireland.
The UK’s exit from the European Union will change the legal relationship with Ireland, which is remaining part of the bloc.
Personal data privacy protection in the EU is among the strongest in the world, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was introduced in order to give individuals choice and control over how their personal information is used by businesses and governments.
Facebook will inform users of the switch within the next six months, it told Reuters, giving them the option to stop using the group’s Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp services if they are unhappy with the switch.
“There will be no change to the privacy controls or the services Facebook offers to people in the UK,” Facebook said in statement on Tuesday, though the switch from the EU to the US will involve moving from a regime of strong legal protection for data and privacy to a much looser one.
A spokeswoman for the Information Commissioner’s Office said the body is “aware of Facebook’s plans and will continue to engage with the company in the new year”.
Concerns were raised about what it means for UK users.
One of the lines sold by Brexiters was that a supposed benefit of leaving the EU was to cut ‘red tape’, pointed out James Castro-Edwards, head of data protection services at law firm Wedlake Bell.
He noted that the EU’s GDPR regime includes an ‘extra territorial reach’ which seeks to protect citizens in the EU against the privacy-intrusive practices of the data-hungry likes of Facebook and Google.
“It also incorporates measures that require EU data protection authorities to coordinate their efforts, thereby giving them a sporting chance against the tech giants and their vast ‘war chests’. Thanks to this ‘red tape’ being cut, the protection afforded to UK citizens by the GDPR could gradually fall away, an opportunity that appears not to have gone unnoticed by Facebook,” Castro-Edwards said.
The UK and US are, however, are starting to make moves towards clamping down on Big Tech and working on new rules for the industry, however, with the government this week publishing plans for online safety laws.
US regulators at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a coalition of 48 US states filed a collection of lawsuits against Facebook earlier this month alleging that the social media giant has engaged in anticompetitive behaviour and abused its market position to crush potential rivals.