Facebook warns Europe that users will miss out if privacy regulations get worse

29 Apr 2015

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Facebook has warned privacy regulators in Europe that users across the continent will miss out on new products and features if regulatory probes in various EU countries continue to tie up its resources.

Writing in today’s Financial Times, the head of policy for Facebook in Europe, Richard Allan, said that dealing with a patchwork of regulators across Europe on a variety of privacy issues is proving to be time-consuming and expensive for the company.

In the most recent episode, the European Court of Justice began deliberations on a lawsuit brought against Facebook by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems over the use of so-called ‘Safe Harbor’ to manage EU citizen data.

Schrems originally took a case against Facebook’s operations in Ireland on the matter and was referred by the High Court to the European Court of Justice.

Fortress Europe

Allan said that Facebook’s and other companies’ users in Europe could fall behind the rest of the world when new products and services are rolled out.

“Facebook’s costs would increase and people in Europe would notice new features arriving more slowly, or not at all,” Allan said.

“If it is allowed to stand, complying with EU law will no longer be enough.”

Up until now Facebook has had only to deal with the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland where Facebook has its international headquarters.

But now Facebook faces a series of privacy probes, with regulators in Spain, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium opening investigations.

Allan warned that this will prove unwieldy for companies like Facebook.

“If a car made in France or Germany had to meet separate technical requirements in Poland or Spain, Europe’s car manufacturers would face serious handicaps,” he pointed out.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years