Wednesday 21 February 2018

Facebook threatens to cut Europe off if regulators don't accept Irish oversight

Facebook is demanding that other privacy regulators accept Irish data enforcement Credit: Chris Ison
Facebook is demanding that other privacy regulators accept Irish data enforcement Credit: Chris Ison Newsdesk Newsdesk

Facebook users in Europe could be left behind by the social media giant if privacy regulators keep putting pressure on the company, the social network warned.

In an explicit threat to stall or even prevent news features coming to Europe, the company’s European Vice President of Public Policy Richard Allen said “Europe would notice new features arriving more slowly or not at all” if privacy probes against the company continued.

“We established our European headquarters in Ireland five years ago, we underwent months of demanding, technical audits by the data protection authorities there, who are charged with enforcing EU data protection law,” he wrote in an opinion piece published in the Finance Times.

“This is how European regulation is supposed to work: if a business meets regulations implemented in its home country, it can operate across the EU. Lately, however, cracks have begun appearing in this common regulatory framework.”

“National regulators in a number of countries, including Belgium and the Netherlands, appear to be initiating multiple, overlapping investigations of Facebook, revisiting basic questions about how our services work.

“If regulation at the national level is adopted… Facebook’s costs would increase, and people in Europe would notice new features arriving more slowly, or not at all. The next big thing might never see the light of day.”

The op-ed is the latest move in Facebook’s high profile campaign against attempts by EU regulators to force it to submit to scrutiny in individual countries, rather than being overseen by Ireland’s data protection authorities alone.

The company faces a series of privacy probes across the continent, with regulators from France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium all opening investigations.

Facebook argues that if a car made France or Germany had to meet separate technical requirements in Poland or Spain, Europe’s car manufacturers would face serious handicaps.

“BMW, Jaguar and Renault might not be the international success stories that they are. Consumers would not be as well served; the cost of selling in a new market would increase and some companies would not bother.”

Adding: “National authorities are entitled to their differences over how Facebook and other internet companies should be regulated. But ignoring the rules Europe has so painstakingly crafted, and arrogating the authority that those rules accord to the Irish regulators, is not the answer.

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