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Facebook and Instagram data protection: will Meta leave Europe?

Do you know the problem of Facebook and Instagram’s data protection? Do you think Meta will leave Europe? At UIE we tell you all the news!

Another Facebook data protection issue is making headlines again. The parent company (Meta) has filed a report with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) stating that it may stop offering Facebook and Instagram in the European Union.

In 2018, Facebook was at the center of a scandal over a “data theft” on the platform. Now, according to the EU judiciary Powers, the United States does not meet the required security standards for personal data. This may affect the continuity of companies such as Meta in the Old Continent. 

What is the problem with Facebook´s data protection?

According to a ruling issued by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in 2020, the “Privacy Shield” between the EU and the United States is not valid, since the US does not provide an adequate level of guarantees.

Through the“Privacy Shield” agreement, the US government was required to comply with certain levels of protection for the personal data of European citizens.

The aforementioned “Privacy Shield” allowed companies such as  Apple, Google or Facebook  to take data to the United States. The profits obtained by online commerce thanks to this agreement amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars. 

What has changed now?

The situation has changed when a Facebook user of Austrian nationality (Maximilian Schrems) made a claim because he did not agree with the fact that his personal data would be sent do the United States  (from Facebook Ireland to Facebook Inc., which are both independent servers), as the guarantees offered from the United States were not sufficient to him.

The reason for the claim made reference to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to obtain data from foreigner citizens who live outside the country and they use platforms such as Facebook to obtain them.

Two years later (2018) came into force the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Privacy Shield was give a lesser priority. Now, according to the judicial branch of the EU, the transfer of personal data with a commercial aim cannot be outside its scope based on these regulations, that is to say, they do justice Schrems´ claim.

This way, the Privacy Shield is not valid and anything related to Facebook´s data protection outside Europe does not adjust to the requirements made by the EU authorities.

Can Meta leave Europe?

The ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Unión (CJEU) endorsing the fact that the USA data protection regulations are not strict enough (at least not as strict as the GDPR) has been a blow to Meta.

In the report submitted to the SEC, Meta clearly states that if they cannot transfer data between the countries it operates or it has certain restrictions, its capacity to offer services will be affected. Thus, they could not offer their most important products, that is to say, Facebook and Instagram in Europe.

According to these statements, this matter can cause Facebook and Instagram to leave the Old Continent. However, this measure goes against Meta´s interests (it will lose more than million users and high profit figures).

On the other hand, Facebook´s data protection problema may extend to other companies with a similar business model. Europe could become a technological desert (the Privacy Shield covers more than 5,300 companies).

Everything indicates that it will maintain its presence in Europe

Nothing can be discarded in such a changing sector and such a complex legal paradigm. However, after all the scandal, the vice-president of the Communication and International Relationships Department of Meta (Nick Clegg) states in a debate that the company has no intention to leave Europe

Likewise, the Commissioner for Justice of the EU (Didier Reynders) expressed in a press release that he will get in touch with his colleagues in the United States to work in the development of a stronger and lasting mechanism.

Given the consequences, both sides are keen to reach an agreement, even though the Commissioner for Justice is committed to a strong data protection system.

Conclusions

The guarantees from Facebook´s data protection is not something to be taken lightly. The platform has a great capacity to gather information and it was fined by the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEDP) for obtaining data without the users´ consent.

Now, according to the court, Facebook is in breach of the EU data protection legislation. However, this case is different: its actions are based on an agreement reached prior to the entry into force of the GDPR and which, following the CJEU ruling, has been rendered ineffective. This is the real focus of the problem.

The questions remains to be if the European Union and the United States would be able to reach a new agreement to guarantee the security of the personal data of all users.

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