Several tech companies will group British users under American jurisdictions for legal reasons after Brexit
Facebook will transfer all its users in Britain into user agreements presided over by its corporate headquarters in the US instead of Europe, blaming “uncertainties remaining’ after the Brexit transition period. The switch, which impacts roughly 34m people, will come into effect in 2021. Britons will be notified of an update to the social network’s terms of service in the first half of the year, it said. It follows a similar move announced by Google earlier this year in anticipation of data flow negotiations as Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues Brexit discussions. The move was first reported by Reuters. A Facebook spokesman said: “With the Brexit transition period almost over and uncertainties remaining, Facebook has decided it will transfer legal responsibilities and obligations for UK users from its Facebook Ireland entity to Facebook Inc. “Facebook Inc already has legal responsibility for other users from countries outside of the European Region.” Britons using the internet are currently protected by Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and will continue to be throughout the Brexit transition period. The Information Commissioner said earlier this year that GDPR will be replaced by a similar “UK GDPR”, which will sit along with existing sovereign laws. However, negotiations are ongoing and while the UK allows information to flow into Europe, the reverse is still under discussion.
Concerns were raised after Google’s announcement to put UK users under the auspices of its Californian headquarters in February because American privacy laws are weaker than GDPR. Experts suggested that it may make it easier for police to access emails or phone messages than if they remained under Europe. The US and UK have signed the Cloud Act, a data-sharing agreement that makes it easier for law enforcement to request information directly from technology companies without legal barriers.
However, Facebook said that users will continue to remain subject to UK GDPR and that all other users outside the European region are held under Facebook Inc. It added that there will be no change to the privacy controls, including how it collects and processes data, or how it responds to law enforcement requests for people’s information. Both Facebook and Google set up their European subsidiaries in Dublin, Ireland to take advantage of low corporate tax rates. Apple, Twitter, and Airbnb also operate from the Irish capital.