Justice ministers in the EU reached an agreement this week that will force companies outside of Europe to follow European privacy practices. Facebook’s European headquarters are based in Ireland, though the company has faced pressure from European governments over their privacy practices before, notably earlier this year when a German court ruled that the site had to comply with German data protection laws.
Revelations of U.S. surveillance in Europe have troubled many of the continents citizens, most notably when it was revealed that the U.S. had tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.
“All companies operating on European soil have to apply the rules,” EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said. “Now is the day for European ministers to give a positive answer to Edward Snowden’s wake-up call.”
As Time Magazine noted, Europeans and Americans have differing views regarding privacy. Europeans tend to favor more rights and controls, while Americans are less concerned. European courts have ruled before that citizens have a “right to be forgotten” online, meaning their history could effectively be erased from search engines. It’s unlikely that Facebook will ever face the pressure here in America that it does in Europe, though as the site sets its goals on expanding into the third world and beyond, they may have to tread more carefully around regional privacy laws.