Facebook and Instagram could be heading for shutdown across Europe
Ireland has a major role in the story.
Facebook and Instagram could be subject to an enforced shutdown for European users in the months to come, following a warning made by the respective platforms' parent company.
Meta's annual report for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission notes that new regulations present notably damaging potential conflicts for the continued operations of its products moving forward.
Essentially, it boils down to challenges from both the European Union and Ireland's own Data Protection Commission with regards to the nature of data protection and the transferring of an individual's private information.
As a Mashable explainer points out, Meta argues that the ability to process unique user data and use it for the purpose of targeted advertising remains essential to its core business strategy.
"We are also subject to evolving laws and regulations that dictate whether, how, and under what circumstances we can transfer, process and/or receive certain data that is critical to our operations, including data shared between countries or regions in which we operate and data shared among our products and services," details a section of the report.
"If we are unable to transfer data between and among countries and regions in which we operate, or if we are restricted from sharing data among our products and services, it could affect our ability to provide our services, the manner in which we provide our services or our ability to target ads, which could adversely affect our financial results."
The report goes on to highlight how the company's Privacy Shield – a transfer framework relied upon for data transferred from the EU to the US – was invalidated in July of 2020 by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
A preliminary draft decision from Ireland's Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is also raised, which argued that Facebook/Meta's reliance on standard contractual clauses did not comply with GDPR rules.
As such, the Data Protection Commission proposed that such transfers of user data from the European Union to the United States should be suspended.
A final decision on that particular inquiry could be issued in the first half of 2022.
However, should an alternative method not become apparent in the near future, Meta could be forced to shut down Facebook and Instagram throughout Europe.
"If a new transatlantic data transfer framework is not adopted and we are unable to continue to rely on SCCs or rely upon other alternative means of data transfers from Europe to the United States, we will likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe, which would materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations," the report notes.
London-based financial publication City A.M. shared a statement from Meta’s VP of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg who said that "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."
Turning his attention to Ireland's involvement, Clegg added:
“The Irish Data Protection Commission has commenced an inquiry into Facebook controlled EU-US data transfers, and has suggested that SCCs cannot in practice be used for EU-US data transfers.”
“While this approach is subject to further process, if followed, it could have a far reaching effect on businesses that rely on SCCs and on the online services many people and businesses rely on."