Facebook’s Irish operations won’t be affected by GDPR decision

19 Apr 2018

Facebook offices in Silicon Docks. Image: Connor McKenna

Facebook decision to change terms of service in May for 1.5bn users outside EU will not affect Irish operations.

Facebook’s 2,500-strong Irish workforce will not be affected by the decision to put 1.5bn global users out of reach of the upcoming GDPR legislation.

It emerged overnight that only EU users will be governed by the terms of service agreed with the company’s international headquarters in Ireland – where the full weight of EU GDPR sanctions will apply.

‘We continue to grow our team in Dublin responsible for data protection and we’re currently hiring a data protection officer’

Currently, Facebook users outside of the US and Canada are governed by the terms of service agreed with the company’s EMEA HQ in Dublin. However, this is due to change in May when GDPR becomes law, with heavy fines up to €20m or 4pc of global turnover, whichever is higher.

Users residing in Asia, Africa, Australia and Latin America will now be governed outside of the legal remit of GDPR, by Facebook US.

A spokesperson for the company said that the decision will not affect Facebook’s operations in Dublin in terms of jobs, responsibilities and operations.

“We continue to be committed to the European data protection laws, including the GDPR. We continue to grow our team in Dublin responsible for data protection and we’re currently hiring a data protection officer,” the spokesperson told Siliconrepublic.com.

Facing into a privacy-centric future

Facebook has been in Dublin since 2008 and now employs more than 2,500 people in the city. Recent reports indicate the company is planning to build an even bigger operation in the city, possibly in Ballsbridge.

Facebook is still reeling from the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica affair. Following the appearance of Mark Zuckerberg before US Congress last week, executives from the company, including global data privacy vice-president Joel Kaplan, addressed an Oireachtas committee in Dublin.

Ahead of the upcoming Eighth referendum, the social network has revealed a new ‘View Ads’ tool to give Irish voters greater clarity over propaganda advertising.

However, the biggest changes in Europe will be driven by GDPR and the company said it is prepared, recently announcing new facial-recognition tools for EU users.

“The GDPR and EU consumer law set out specific rules for terms and data policies, which we have incorporated for EU users,” Stephen Deadman, deputy chief global privacy officer at Facebook, said in a statement.

Facebook said that it applies the same privacy principles born out in GDPR on a global basis, with the same global controls.

“We have been clear that we are offering everyone who uses Facebook the same privacy protections, controls and settings, no matter where they live. These updates do not change that.”

However, Facebook pointed out that the EU rules are prescriptive and demand “certain formalistic approaches, including wording” that are not relevant across all parts of the world, and that many people outside the EU would rather report data incidents to their local regulators.

“We intend to make the entire GDPR flow available to all users worldwide with small changes in presentation, so everyone will have a chance to go through this experience, and all of the same settings and controls are available to everyone,” the company said in a statement.

“We are working to be more responsive to regional norms and legal frameworks going forward, and these EU rules would make it harder to do that.”

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