Facebook’s work with Boston University has led a top university to publish a significant study, based on analyses of more than 500 million data points of users across Europe, which concludes that users in most European countries feel safer going online than in the United States.
“It appears that cyber-surveillance is, indeed, limited to the US,” the BU report states. “However, a survey conducted in 2014 revealed that citizens of many European countries consider themselves to be at increased risk from cyber-surveillance compared to the US.”
One can’t help but draw comparisons with the EU Parliament’s move this week to amend its Data Protection Law to tackle data management practices of social media companies such as Facebook and Apple, which the EU believes violated its laws by storing user data on servers outside the EU for “broadly defined legal purposes.”
EU lawmakers voted in favor of allowing EU citizens to ask for that data to be stored on servers in Europe, and not just in the US where many US intelligence agencies hold information on suspected terrorists.
But is the EU taking necessary steps to protect its citizens and can it really compete with the innovation and creativity of Silicon Valley? At what cost?
European lawmakers have some of the most progressive data privacy laws in the world but, as reported by CNN Tech last week, social media users in the US have yet to directly complain about negative privacy practices.
Still, it’s the US that dominates the global social media market. According to Piper Jaffray’s estimates, Facebook now has nearly 2.6 billion monthly active users in its latest quarter. This market caps, to be precise, owns ~$4 trillion in value, pushing many Asian-based social media platforms such as Tencent and Tencent Holdings, a $455 billion market cap, below the valuation of Japan’s largest bank, according to Bloomberg.
For all the bad publicity, data privacy seems to be on the minds of European governments like France and Germany, according to University of Cambridge professor and director of data analytics at Boston University, Dr. Geoffrey Pullum.
“At the moment, we’re now entering the storm of European regulation of major internet companies,” Pullum told CNNTech. “Those include rules on data, encrypted systems, tech firms like Facebook, which could impact their revenues, and political parties that have become very powerful in Europe which have asked for these rules — while some US companies are currently lobbying for further relaxations of legislation in the US.”
Pullum tells CNNTech it is unclear how data privacy will end up in the long run, but when it comes to Europe and the US, one thing is for sure: you don’t hear of Facebook users in the UK or the US complaining about data privacy.
“Social-media user privacy in the US is not a concern that the public here seem to want,” Pullum said. “They don’t seem to feel they are too concerned about their privacy, unlike the Europeans, for example.”
For Hooman Khalili, co-founder of gaming community hooligansfly, European countries like France and Germany seem to be ahead of the US in terms of data privacy.
“Currently, the most important issue with social media is not privacy, but about trust,” Khalili said. “We have more than 500 million worldwide players of PUBG. Many of them think it is pointless to play a game that has no way of finding out who is actually behind the nasty players. Many users also pay PUBG and other similar games to have their games secured by a third party (in fact, it’s become a trend) and have their own official account [with] better karma and the ability to gain recognition.”