Facebook will not comply with data localisation laws in authoritarian countries
As part of Mark Zuckerberg’s 2019 personal challenge, he released a 93-minute video of his discussion with Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari, where the two talk about why it is so important that we don’t store sensitive data in countries with weak rule of law or where governments can forcibly get access to that data.
Zuckerberg said that Facebook will not comply with laws and set up local data centers in authoritarian countries where that data could be forcibly accessed. He also said in the recent earnings call that he is ready to risk Facebook shutting down in authoritarian countries if the company is forced to locally store data.
While laws can help protect user privacy and data in countries that are justly ruled, however, the local storage of data can be problematic in nations where governments might use military might to see the data. That could help them enhance their surveillance capabilities, disrupt activism or hunt down mutineers.
Zuckerberg said, “I actually think the bigger question is what is it going to be? And the most likely alternative to each country adopting something that encodes the freedoms and rights of something like GDPR, in my mind, is the authoritarian model, which is currently being spread, which says every company needs to store everyone’s data locally in data centers and then, if I’m a government, I can send my military there and get access to whatever data I want and take that for surveillance or military. I just think that that’s a really bad future. And that’s not the direction, as someone who’s building one of these internet services, or just as a citizen of the world, I want to see the world going.”
Russia and China already have data localization laws. Germany requires telecommunications metadata to be stored locally, and India has a similar rule for payments data.
Another very crucial questions Yuval Noah Harari asked Zuckerberg was: “Is it still true in a world where we have the technology to hack human beings and manipulate them like never before that the customer is always right, that the voter knows best? Or have we gone past this point?”
To this Zuckerberg said that “I think people really don’t like and are very distrustful when they feel like they’re being told what to do.” (Who is going to decode that now!)
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