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January 27, 2021

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Facebook Warns EU Users of Impacts to Messaging Due to Changes in Privacy Laws

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Facebook has outlined the latest messaging changes for European users as a result of new data security and privacy laws in the region.

Europe’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive – also known as the ‘ePrivacy Directive’ – is being expanded from this week in order to incorporate more forms of digital communication. The Directive relates to how user data is stored and used, and how businesses can use platforms, including messaging tools, to distribute marketing material. The latest changes relate to how long data can be kept, and what types of information can be gathered via messaging apps.

Facebook outlined coming changes to Messenger API usage for European businesses earlier in the month, and now, it’s looking at the consumer side, and how everyday users will be impacted.

As explained by Facebook:

People using our messaging and calling services in Europe or interacting with friends and family in Europe may notice some changes to features on Messenger, Instagram and Facebook. In order to comply with the law, we needed to adjust the way our services work, such as further segregating messaging data from other parts of our infrastructure.” 

Facebook specifically highlights that polls, for example, could be problematic, due to the way in which polls utilize user data.

“We prioritized core features, like text messaging and video calling, and have made sure the majority of our other features are available. We’re working to bring back features that we can as quickly as possible, and our Help Center has updates for some of the features that are affected.”

It’s not clear how much of Facebook’s messaging tools will be impacted by the change, but as noted, Facebook has already outlined impacts to API usage for businesses, so there will be evident changes to the in-app process. 

Europe is working to evolve its privacy protections in line with rising consumer demand, following on from the implementation of the GDPR back in 2018.

And it’s not done yet – in September, the European Union privacy regulator sent a preliminary order to Facebook which called for the company to suspend data transfers about EU users back to the US. According to the order, EU officials are increasingly concerned about potential surveillance practices by the US Government, and are now looking to limit such by restricting the flow of user information.

If that gets implemented, that could have wide-ranging impacts, not just for Facebook, but for how all digital platforms operate, and their obligations to store data locally. 

Data privacy is set to remain a key focus in 2021, and you can expect to see more discussions and shifts along these lines throughout the year.


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