Why you might want to tell Facebook you now live in Europe

(Or just delete your account)

Why you might want to tell Facebook you now live in Europe

Facebook CEO and professional hoody-wearer Mark Zuckerberg has told Reuters that it won’t stick to Europe’s new strict data privacy rules globally.

In other words, if you’re lucky enough to be a European citizen Facebook is going to have to abide by GDPR (Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation), due to come into force next month.

That means, amongst other things, that you’ll have the right to know what data Facebook is storing about you, and have it deleted. Companies like Facebook will have to be more specific about how they intend to use individuals’ data, and gain explicit consent for its use.

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But if you live in, say, the United States, China, India, or anywhere else in the world, Zuckerberg is not prepared to promise you’ll have the same privacy guarantees.

Facebook’s CEO says that the company’s intention is to extend GDPR privacy protection worldwide “in spirit,” but from the sound of things he wants to make some undefined exceptions in some undisclosed countries.

That, of course, runs against the grain for privacy advocates who would like to see GDPR become a global standard.

After all, if your international firm is already doing business with European citizens and needs to abide by GDPR laws, wouldn’t it be simplest to adopt them globally?

That would surely be a positive boost for billions of consumers worldwide, especially in countries where privacy and data protection laws are weak.

Or might it be the case that the privacy of users is not really the primary concern of some online companies, and their focus remains on maximising their opportunities to exploit users’ data instead?

If you’re concerned that you might be getting a worse deal from Facebook than your European cousins, maybe you could find some way to make your Facebook profile look like you’re based in Europe? Failing that, there’s always the option to delete your account.

Overnight, in a Q&A session with journalists, Mark Zuckerberg has responded to the Reuters interview:

“I was somewhat surprised by yesterday’s Reuters story that ran on this because the reporter asked if we are planning on running the controls for GDPR across the world and my answer was yes. We intend to make all the same controls and settings available everywhere, not just in Europe. Is it going to be exactly the same format? Probably not. We need to figure out what makes sense in different markets with the different laws and different places. But – let me repeat this – we’ll make all controls and settings the same everywhere, not just in Europe.”

Quite what Zuckerberg means about it being “(not) exactly the same format” in different countries remains to be seen…

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

4 comments on “Why you might want to tell Facebook you now live in Europe”

  1. coyote

    'Facebook’s CEO says that the company’s intention is to extend GDPR privacy protection worldwide “in spirit,” but from the sound of things he wants to make some undefined exceptions in some undisclosed countries.'

    So..in other words his idea is held in a signed int but when compiled in some countries it overflows thus evoking undefined behaviour? :) Even so it's hardly surprising that someone who quotes the ridiculous notion that you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide (everyone has something to hide and the suggestion to the contrary is easy to break down but many people simply do not think even when the obvious is pointed out to them!). What might be surprising is that it's not everywhere but where required. And if he hasn't disclosed where the different policies apply that's also unsurprising.

    Hope you're doing well Graham – been a long time but I've had quite a lot going on both good (and exciting!) and bad. Still I did say that as long as I could I would comment here; although I don't comment much now I still look at the site every so often (though it seems the RSS feed isn't loading now though I'm unsure if that's a problem on my end or a change on your end). So consider this an example comment! :)

  2. Jason

    Time for Zuckerberg aka the Privacy Gobbler to meet the USA RICO Act.(Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act). First Friendster, then AOL, then MySpace, then Facebook, what next? ALL offering an apple for your convenient soul.

  3. DaB

    I can only muse that people are locked in on-going denial of the dangers involved with use of social media. Even before the data robbing and privacy breaches were big news, users were warned prospective employers, insurance companies, and schools were looking at their posts. And some employers required media passwords to be given. There was abundant stories out about how people were harmed. And now, finally, the ugly underbelly of social media's business model has been splayed out for all to see, who are willing to look. What will it take for the ugly reality to finally settle in???

    Yet there's all manner of work arounds being presented, to enable all to keep participating in an abhorrent business model instead of killing it. To prop it up without fundamentally changing it's dangerous foundation. Reminds me of the addictive qualities of tobacco use and it's denial by users and people starting to smoke. Hidden by the perp corporations for as long as they could, independent 3rd parties warning of dangers, calls to regulate & tax it, more leaks showing breaches of naive public trust, more explicit warnings for users, court cases and awards (finally), estimates of the many and very high costs to society, the rise of pseudo alternatives, but nonetheless: ongoing use of this health and public menace. So also goes social media's privacy busting business model.

    It's all corruption of a system of circled vested interests. There's tons of $ to be made by keeping the privacy busting business alive. Large organizations' survival depends on it and now lots of jobs at stake. Troves of naive narcissistically addicted users in denial, the deliberately ignorant and free loaders not wanting to pay cash for a basic email address or other service. And circling vultures who want to feed, ostensibly only with the best intentions, on the decaying corpse of privacy the users willingly killed for their own selfish ends.

    It's the same overall modus operandi over in the entangled foreign policy, national security, military industrial complex and surveillance State arena. Huge corps, many jobs, lots of budget, naive prattle for the masses to justify it, maneuvers hidden to maintain public support, political and vested interests corruption, ad nauseam like above.

    This is how we collectively do things……..

  4. John

    Is there any point to deleting your Facebook account ? OK, they will stop using new info from *you* to build your profile but you will still have a shadow profile, data about you, that you think should be your data but was given to Facebook by someone else.

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