Social media platforms have access to a considerable amount of personal information. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a recent example of a privacy breach that affected a significant number of Facebook users. The enactment of new laws is an appropriate global response to Facebook’s privacy breach, but its efficacy is contingent on the homogeneity of laws across jurisdictions.
The Right to Privacy
Globally, governments are introducing new legislation to provide social media users with adequate constitutional protection for the right to privacy. After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Congress realized that there is a need to develop proper regulations, which can reduce the likelihood of Facebook users experiencing another incident of privacy breach (Tibken par. 6). American lawmakers acknowledge that the Internet and social media platforms have changed the dynamics of information sharing, which requires the making of new laws to regulate the data protection and management practices of Facebook and other social media platforms. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) developed by the European Union came into effect in 2018 as a new attitude to the outdated Data Protection Directive of 1995 (Smyth 591). The GDPR is an attempt by the European Parliament to establish strict regulations that can address the emerging threats to personal information in the digital world. There is a consensus among governments that the data collection and management practices of Facebook and similar businesses should be supervised closely.
Recent Regulations on Privacy
Recent regulations are designed to empower consumers and increase the liability of organizations that acquire large amounts of data as they conduct their business. In California, businesses are required to inform a consumer of their right to request for the deletion of personal information (California State Legislature sec. 1798.105(b)). The inclusion of this law forces businesses to educate consumers regarding the power they possess to demand the deletion of their data at any given time. Moreover, California-based businesses are required to communicate a request of deletion to all third parties “unless this proves impossible or involves disproportionate effort” (California State Legislature sec. 1798.105(c)). This law motivates a business to act on a deletion request because it leaves the business liable unless there is evidence that the firm made an adequate effort to remove the consumer’s information from circulation. Modern laws offer meaningful protection to social media users and encourage platform owners to behave responsibly.
The intended regulatory effect of new laws is undermined by the lack of consistency in data privacy regulation across jurisdictions. According to Smyth, Mark Zuckerberg made the decision to relocate its international headquarters from Ireland to California before the enforcement of the GDPR to ensure that the 1.5 billion non-European Facebook users would not enjoy protection under the new law, which reduced Facebook’s potential liability in the event of a data breach (591). Facebook deliberately changed its international headquarters to California, which has weaker data privacy protection measures compared to Ireland, being a member of the European Union. If there was regulation homogeneity across jurisdictions, the headquarter relocation would not be an option for Facebook to evade stringent data privacy rules.
Uniform enforcement of data privacy regulations across jurisdictions is necessary for consumers to benefit from the new regulations that are emerging worldwide. The United States and European Union are revisiting their privacy laws to adapt the regulations to the changing data sharing landscape of the digital era. Most laws give the user more power over the use of their personal information while increasing the potential liability of businesses. The inconsistency in jurisdictional regulations is a major threat to the efficacy of new data privacy regulations.
California State Legislature. California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, California Legislative Information, 2018, leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?division=3.&part=4.&lawCode=CIV&title=1.81.5.
Smyth, Sara M. “The Facebook Conundrum: Is It Time to Usher in a New Era of Regulation for Big Tech.” International Journal of Cyber Criminology, vol. 13, no. 2, 2019, pp. 578-595, doi:10.5281/zenodo.3718955.
Tibken, Shara. “Questions to Mark Zuckerberg Show Many Senators Don’t Get Facebook.” CNET, CBS Interactive Inc., 11 Apr. 2018, www.cnet.com/news/some-senators-in-congress-capitol-hill-just-dont-get-facebook-and-mark-zuckerberg/.