Social media giant Facebook says in a statement that it will shift all of its UK users to US agreements, putting them out of reach of Europe's privacy laws that could potentially fine the company billions of dollars.
"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," Facebook exclusively told Reuters.
However, Facebook did confirm that there will be no change to the privacy controls over its UK customers. Agreements with Facebook's Irish unit currently shield the giant tech company, and the change will undergo anytime soon next year. During the first half of 2021, Facebook will notify users about the small change in its terms and conditions agreements.
Facebook Privacy Concerns
The announcement came following the Brexit impact on the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GPDR), which, to this day, remains the world's strictest privacy regime.
"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," Jim Killock, executive director of the UK-based nonprofit Open Rights Group, told Reuters further.
In addition, GPDR has recently been firing tech giant companies like Twitter. As The Verge reported, Irish DPC issued a $546,000 fine against Twitter over a data leak the social media giant disclosed a year ago in January 2019. It is known as the first US-based company to be fined by European GPDR laws. Twitter's failure to notify the system within 72 hours in January 2019 is why the fine was issued.
"We take responsibility for this mistake and remain fully committed to protecting the privacy and data of our customers," the company says in a statement to Tech Crunch.
Not the First Time
Besides Facebook, Google also followed the same practice earlier in February this year. Google moved its UK users onto the US agreements to avoid EU privacy laws, which have become more complicated since Brexit.
As Reuters first reported, Britain's exit from the EU prompted Google to take such an uneasy action, exposing tens of millions of users with less protection. Google says that it decided to move because it was unclear whether Britain will follow GPDR or adopt other rules.
On the contrary, the United States has among the weakest privacy protections of them all. The recent Could Act makes it easier for authorities to obtain any US companies' data, where almost all Big Techs are headquartered.
That said, if British Google users opt to store their data in Ireland, which is still a part of the Union, it would be more difficult for British authorities to overgo in criminal investigations.