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How Europe is shaping privacy on Facebook — and what comes next

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On May 25th, the 28-member European Union will begin enforcing the General Data Protection Regulation
 
January 29 · Issue #71 · View online
The Interface
On May 25th, the 28-member European Union will begin enforcing the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which places stringent new privacy requirements on tech companies like Facebook. In the Times, Sheera Frankel lays out the impact:
Among their provisions, the rules enshrine the so-called right to be forgotten into European law so people can ask companies to remove certain online data about them. The rules also require anyone under 16 to obtain parental consent before using popular digital services. If companies do not comply, they could face fines totaling 4 percent of their annual revenue.
With the deadline for the new rules now just a few months away, Silicon Valley’s tech behemoths have been scrambling to get ready. Facebook and Google have deployed hundreds of people to make sense of the regulations. Many of the companies have overhauled how they give users access to their own privacy settings. Some have redesigned certain products that suck up too much user data. And in some cases, companies have removed products entirely from the European market because they would violate the new privacy rules.
Facebook’s data collection policies helped spur the passage of the GDPR, and the company actively fought against it, as this 2015 story describes:
Facebook, for instance, has run into problems after at least five national privacy watchdogs — in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain — started investigations into whether the social network broke data protection laws. Last month, a Belgian court ruled that Facebook could not collect information on people in the country who did not use its service, a ruling the company is appealing.
Facebook contends that Ireland — where the company has its international headquarters — is the only country that can make such privacy rulings, though Europe’s new data protection rules would allow the region’s many data protection watchdogs to intervene if they suspect their citizens’ data has been misused.
But Facebook lost that fight, and now the company is learning to live with the consequences. On Sunday night, the company said that later this year, it would introduce a feature that organizes Facebook privacy settings into a single place. (I was under the impression the company already did this — see this widget in your Facebook settings — but for now the company isn’t offering any details.) It’s also going to put videos in your News Feed teaching you to how to use these settings.
The GDPR marks the latest development in an evolving debate over what kinds of data Facebook should be allowed to collect. Facebook has historically been a data maximalist — as you can read in the passage above, it fights for the right to gather information about people who do not use the service.
But there’s another view, too. Today I spoke with Dipayan Ghosh and Ben Scott, authors of “Digital Deceit: The Technologies Behind Precision Propaganda on the Internet.” We wrote about the report last week, focused on Ghosh’s position as a former Facebook employee who observed the aftermath of the 2016 election firsthand. 
Ghosh had plenty to say about that when we talked. I’ll have the whole conversation for you tomorrow here and on The Verge
In the meantime I wanted to highlight something his partner told me. Scott, a former policy adviser at the US Department of State under Hillary Clinton, argues that one way we could limit the use of Facebook as a vector for disinformation campaigns is to restrict the company from collecting information about our political preferences and letting advertisers target us using that data. 
Russians can’t influence the more suggestible of us, the argument goes, if they can’t find us in the first place. Here’s what Scott told me:
If we’re restrictive in the data that is collected about politically sensitive topics and elections in particular, and we’re constraining the ability of the platform to sell access to that data for the purpose of targeted advertising, we’ve made a significant dent in the problem. But so far, that manner of approaching the problem hasn’t really been in question.  
It’s difficult to imagine Facebook supporting a ban on collecting data about political affiliation. Among other things, political ads represent a significant source of revenue for the company. But the GDPR won’t be the last regulatory restriction on Facebook’s data-collection regime. The next phase of the debate may not be about how much data Facebook collects, but what kind.

Democracy
The Follower Factory
New York Attorney General to Investigate Firm That Sells Fake Followers
Twitter Says Russian Bots Retweeted Trump 470,000 Times
Elsewhere
YouTuber Under Fire for ‘Acid Attack’ Prank Videos
'He's not a PR guy': Adam Mosseri, Facebook's head of news feed, has become an unlikely good guy to publishers
Why You Should Be Prepared for Facebook Ad Prices to Rise
Launches
Facebook says it will begin putting more local news into the News Feed
Twitter Invites Brands to Compete in First-Ever #BrandBowl
Twitter Marketing
Can't wait to see new commercials as they're released during the big game? Retweet to subscribe for updates throughout the game on February 4th and catch all the #BrandBowl52 advertiser spots from @TwitterMktg. https://t.co/1RyUxroCXl
2:28 PM - 25 Jan 2018
Takes
Billionaire Mark Cuban says it’s time for Twitter to enforce a real-name policy:
Mark Cuban
It's time for @twitter to confirm a real name and real person behind every account, and for @facebook to to get far more stringent on the same. I don't care what the user name is. But there needs to be a single human behind every individual account .
10:49 AM - 28 Jan 2018
Many commentators pointed out that real-name policies disproportionately harm minority communities. Still, I do think Twitter should consider optional real-name verification, which would help fight back against the distrust sown by bot armies and other bad actors. 
And finally ...
Strava’s fitness tracker heat map reveals the location of military bases
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Personally identifying information? casey@theverge.com 
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