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Facebook is finally learning to love privacy laws

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
April 4, 2019

Nine years ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg claimed that people do not care about privacy. Things have changed. Last week, he called for the US and other countries to adopt comprehensive privacy protection in line with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, shortly after he had promised to rebuild Facebook around an encrypted privacy-focused platform.

These announcements seem like a startling reversal for a company that makes its money from people’s data. Some claim that big companies like Facebook prefer complicated laws such as the GDPR, which are hard for smaller would-be competitors to comply with. The truth is different. European privacy law is not a predictable set of rules, but an engine of transformation that Facebook and other companies want to bring under their control.

In a different world, the GDPR might have provided a tranquil haven for companies like Facebook. Lobbyists for big American technology companies held the upper hand when the law was first being negotiated. It seemed clear to everyone that they would water down any requirements that threatened their business model.

Things changed when Edward Snowden made his revelations about US National Security Agency surveillance. They shifted the debate over the final draft of the GDPR. A law that had seemed doomed to be toothless grew fangs, with serious privacy requirements and massive fines for defaulters.

Read the full piece at Financial Times