Facebook Says It Will Pull Out Of Europe Completely After Court Ruling Over Data Protection

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Facebook Says It Will Pull Out Of Europe Completely After Court Ruling Over Data Protection

Photo: Niall Carson/PA Images / Getty Images

Social media giant Facebook has said that it will have to pull out of its European operations entirely after the European Court of Justice judged in a landmark ruling that there were insufficient safeguards in place to stop users being spied upon by United States intelligence agencies.

Under the ruling, it would mean that Facebook would not be able to send data back from Europe to the United States, a feature that Facebook claims is essential if it is to continue to operate in these territories. The ruling could even lead to the ending of Facebook, and Instagram, in Europe entirely.

While the ruling was made in July, it will only come into practice if enforced by the Irish data protection commissioner (who is responsible for regulating Facebook in Europe), a decision that is set to be made shortly.

Facebook's associate general counsel, Yvonne Cunnane, said of the ruling that may come into place soon:

"In the event that [Facebook] were subject to a complete suspension of the transfer of users' data to the US it is not clear … how, in those circumstances, it could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU."

Cunnane also made it clear that Facebook were not threatening to pull out of Europe as a protest but rather that it was simply not possible for business operations to operate properly in light of the ruling. She added:

"Legal documents filed with the Irish high court set out the simple reality that Facebook, and many other businesses, organisations and services, rely on data transfers between the EU and the US in order to operate their services. A lack of safe, secure and legal international data transfers would damage the economy and hamper the growth of data-driven businesses in the EU, just as we seek a recovery from Covid-19."

Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK, who is now head of Facebook's global affairs and communication, added that these court rulings could completely fracture technological business and development on a global scale. He said:

"International data transfers underpin the global economy and support many of the services that are fundamental to our daily lives... In the worst-case scenario, this could mean that a small tech start-up in Germany would no longer be able to use a US-based cloud provider. A Spanish product development company could no longer be able to run an operation across multiple time zones. A French retailer may find they can no longer maintain a call centre in Morocco… We support global rules that can ensure consistent treatment of data around the world."

The idea that Facebook and Instagram could completely vanish from Europe does seem unlikely, but it is not completely impossible. European governments must realise that they would face the backlash of users to whom Facebook is a large part of their lives (and a key source of news and information), as well as businesses whose success is wrapped up in the platform. Many users who use Facebook for political content would also see it as a backdoor attack by EU governments on a platform where they can freely express their ideas out with the control of mainstream media.

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Thinking Humanity: Facebook Says It Will Pull Out Of Europe Completely After Court Ruling Over Data Protection
Facebook Says It Will Pull Out Of Europe Completely After Court Ruling Over Data Protection
Social media giant Facebook has said that it will have to pull out of its European operations entirely after the European Court of Justice judged
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