New Zealand privacy watchdog seeks greater power over Facebook

In April, Facebook said that it was changing its terms of service agreements so that its 1.5 billion members in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America would not fall under the European Union’s strict General Data Protection Regulation, which took effect on May 25. (Reuters)
Updated 31 May 2018

New Zealand privacy watchdog seeks greater power over Facebook

  • New Zealand Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said he was seeking new enforcement provisions as part of an overhaul of privacy laws now being considered by parliament
  • New Zealand’s privacy laws, created in 1993, are currently being rewritten

WELLINGTON: New Zealand’s top privacy enforcer is seeking greater powers to regulate Facebook as the social media giant grapples with a tough new privacy regime in Europe and investigations around the globe over its handling of personal data.
New Zealand Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said he was seeking new enforcement provisions as part of an overhaul of privacy laws now being considered by parliament.
Edwards and Facebook have been at loggerheads over whether the tech giant was bound by New Zealand law since March, when Edwards asserted the US company had broken local rules by refusing a request by a New Zealand citizen to access personal information held on the accounts of other users.
“What we did with Facebook is issue a legally binding demand and they just ignored and thumbed their nose at it and refused to comply,” Edwards said in an interview this week.
Facebook declined to comment. In March it said it was disappointed in the decision and that the commissioner had made a “broad and intrusive request for private data.”
Facebook had argued that customers in New Zealand were governed by Irish privacy law, along with most other non-US users.
But in April Facebook confirmed that it was changing its terms of service agreements so that its 1.5 billion members in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America would not fall under the European Union’s strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect on May 25.
Instead, Facebook now specifies that international users are subject to US privacy laws. There are 2.5 million Facebook account holders in New Zealand, according to the privacy commissioner out of a population of around 4.5 million.
The question of how local laws apply to multinational Internet companies with large numbers of customers in scores of countries is an increasingly fraught topic as governments seek greater control on issues ranging from privacy to hate .
New Zealand’s privacy laws, created in 1993, are currently being rewritten.
Edwards was expected this week to ask parliament to grant hspeechis office powers similar to that of other regulators, including the ability to take companies to court and seek fines.
He said he was watching the outcome of international regulators’ investigations into the scandal involving Facebook and the now-defunct political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, before deciding whether to open his own inquiry.
But, in the meantime, Edwards said he had deleted his personal Facebook account, concerned that the terms of agreement had changed so many times that he no longer had control of a “reservoir” of personal information and wanted a “re-set.”
He detailed the process on popular news website The Spinoff.
“I just wanted to explain to people how they could re-assert their autonomy and their control over their own personal information,” he said.


Facebook’s Zuckerberg promises a review of content policies after backlash

Updated 06 June 2020

Facebook’s Zuckerberg promises a review of content policies after backlash

  • Trump's message contained the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts"

WASHINGTON: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday said he would consider changes to the policy that led the company to leave up controversial posts by President Donald Trump during recent demonstrations protesting the death of an unarmed black man while in police custody, a partial concession to critics.
Zuckerberg did not promise specific policy changes in a Facebook post, days after staff members walked off the job, some claiming he kept finding new excuses not to challenge Trump.
"I know many of you think we should have labeled the President's posts in some way last week," Zuckerberg wrote, referring to his decision not to remove Trump's message containing the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."
"We're going to review our policies allowing discussion and threats of state use of force to see if there are any amendments we should adopt," he wrote. "We're going to review potential options for handling violating or partially-violating content aside from the binary leave-it-up or take-it-down decisions."
Zuckerberg said Facebook would be more transparent about its decision-making on whether to take down posts, review policies on posts that could cause voter suppression and would look to build software to advance racial justice, led by important lieutenants.
At a staff meeting earlier this week, employees questioned Zuckerberg's stance on Trump's post.
Zuckerberg, who holds a controlling stake in Facebook, has maintained that while he found Trump's comments "deeply offensive," they did not violate company policy against incitements to violence.
Facebook's policy is either to take down a post or leave it up, without any other options. Now, Zuckerberg said, other possibilities would be considered.
However, he added, "I worry that this approach has a risk of leading us to editorialize on content we don't like even if it doesn't violate our policies."