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Facebook changes its terms and clarify its use of data for consumers

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Today, the European Commission and consumer protection authorities have welcomed Facebook’s updated terms and services. They now clearly explain how the company uses its users’ data to develop profiling activities and target advertising to finance their company.

The new terms detail what services, Facebook sells to third parties that are based on the use of their user’s data, how consumers can close their accounts and under what reasons accounts can be disabled. These developments come after exchanges, which aimed at obtaining full disclosure of Facebook’s business model in a comprehensive and plain language to users.

Vera Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality welcomed the agreement: “Today Facebook finally shows commitment to more transparency and straight forward language in its terms of use. A company that wants to restore consumers trust after the Facebook/ Cambridge Analytica scandal should not hide behind complicated, legalistic jargon on how it is making billions on people’s data. Now, users will clearly understand that their data is used by the social network to sell targeted ads. By joining forces, the consumer authorities and the European Commission, stand up for the rights of EU consumers.”

In the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and as a follow-up to the investigation on social media platforms in 2018, the European Commission and national consumer protection authorities requested Facebook to clearly inform consumers how the social network gets financed and what revenues are derived from the use of consumer data. They also requested the platform to bring the rest of its terms of service in line with EU Consumer Law.

As a result, Facebook will introduce new text in its Terms and Services explaining that it does not charge users for its services in return for users’ agreement to share their data and to be exposed to commercial advertisements. Facebook’s terms will now clearly explain that their business model relies on selling targeted advertising services to traders by using the data from the profiles of its users. 

In addition, following the enforcement action, Facebook has also amended:

–      its policy on limitation of liability and now acknowledges its responsibility in case of negligence, for instance in case data has been mishandled by third parties;

–      its power to unilaterally change terms and conditions by limiting it to cases where the changes are reasonable also taking into account the interest of the consumer;

–      the rules concerning the temporary retention of content which has been deleted by consumers.  Such content can only be retained in specific cases – for instance to comply with an enforcement request by an authority – and for a maximum of 90 days in case of technical reasons;

–      the language clarifying the right to appeal of users when the their content has been removed.

Next steps

Facebook will complete the implementation of all commitments at the latest by the end of June 2019. The Commission and the Consumer Protection Cooperation network will closely monitor the implementation.

If Facebook does not fulfil its commitments, national consumer authorities could decide to resort to enforcement measures, including sanctions. 

Background

The EU Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation links national consumer authorities in a pan-European enforcement network. On that basis, a national authority in one EU country can request the assistance of their counterpart in another EU country to stop a cross-border infringement of EU consumer law.

The Consumer Protection Cooperation Network carried out a joint assessment of Facebook’s terms of service under the coordination of the French Directorate General for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) and asked the company, as well as Twitter and Google+ to improve a number of contract terms.   

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EU Politics

Ebola: EU announces new funds to strengthen preparedness in Burundi

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The Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to spread in the east of the country with a high risk of a spill-over into the neighbouring countries. The European Union is stepping up its assistance to Burundi with €465,000 to further strengthen Ebola preparedness measures by authorities and aid organisations in the country.

Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, who is also the EU’s Ebola Coordinator, said: ”To effectively fight the Ebola virus we do not only have to address the affected cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo but also increase our efforts to prevent the disease from spreading to neighbouring countries like Burundi. The European Union is therefore supporting ongoing Ebola preparedness measures in the country, including infection prevention and control. Everything possible must be done to avoid a further spread of the deadly virus.”

The new EU funding will be allocated through the World Health Organisation. It will strengthen the coordination, surveillance and response capacities to Ebola in high-risk districts in Burundi, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. This new funding complements the existing financial support to the ongoing EU efforts in Ebola surveillance and awareness-raising via NGOs and UN.

Background

Since 2018, the EU has provided €47 million to humanitarian partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo involved in the Ebola response in the affected areas as well as in high-risk areas. In parallel, the EU has also been supporting Ebola prevention and preparedness measures in the neighbouring countries most at risk – Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi – with over €4 million in humanitarian aid to ensure rapid detection and treatment in case of spill-over.

Supporting Ebola preparedness in neighbouring countries is crucial in this region with the high mobility and considerable cross-border trade. Uganda has recently witnessed three cases of a family returning from an Ebola-affected area in the Democratic Republic of Congo. No Ebola cases have been detected in Burundi, but the threat has become increasingly real with two newly confirmed cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s province of South Kivu, which shares a border with Burundi.

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RescEU assets mobilised to help Greece fight devastating forest fires

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Following a request for assistance from Greece on 13 August 2019, rescEU assets have been mobilised to tackle forest fires ravaging several areas of Greece. As an immediate response, the European Union has already helped to mobilise 3 forest fighting planes from rescEU reserve from Italy and Spainto be dispatched swiftly to the affected regions.

rescEU is the EU’s strengthened EU Civil Protection Mechanism, whose reserve includes firefighting planes and helicopters. Through rescEU, the EU reinforces its collective ability to respond to disasters that affect European countries. This is the first ever deployment of the rescEU assets.

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said: “The EU stands in full solidarity with Greece at this difficult time. The planes are already in action, fighting the fires. This immediate response proves the added value of rescEU which makes our response more robust, quick and efficient. Moreover, this is a real example of the common European values on which rescEU is based: solidarity and protection of lives of our European citizens. I am thankful to Italy and Spain for their offers of assistance. We stand ready to provide further assistance.”

Commissioner Stylianides is in constant communication with the Greek authorities. Today, the Commissioner is in Athens where he met with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and visited the Crisis Centre of the Greek Civil Protection to be briefed along with the Minister for the Protection of Citizens Michalis Chrysochoidis and oversee the operation of the rescEU assets.

The European satellite mapping system Copernicus is helping to provide damage assessment maps of the affected areas.

Background

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism strengthens cooperation between Member States/Participating States in the field of civil protection, with a view to improving prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. Through the Mechanism, the European Commission plays a key role in coordinating the response to disasters in Europe and beyond.

When the scale of an emergency overwhelms the response capabilities of a country, it can request assistance via the Mechanism. Once activated, the Mechanism coordinates assistance made available by its Member States/Participating States through spontaneous offers. In addition, the EU has created the European Civil Protection Pool to have a critical number of readily available civil protection capacities allowing for a stronger and coherent collective response. Should the emergency require additional, life-saving assistance, the new rescEU reserve can be used as a matter of last resort.

To date, all EU Member States participate in the Mechanism, as well as Iceland, Norway, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Turkey. Since its inception in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has responded to more than 300 requests for assistance inside and outside the EU.

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EU mobilises €9 million to tackle the food crisis in Haiti

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The European Union has released €9 million in humanitarian aid in response to the deteriorating food and nutrition situation in Haiti. The humanitarian aid will cover the basic food and nutritional needs of more than 130,000 people living in the worst affected areas.

For the EU, the humanitarian situation in Haiti is not a forgotten crisis We are committed to providing vital support to the people hit by the food and nutrition crisis in the country. This assistance comes on top of the €12 million allocated in 2018 to address the urgent food and nutrition needs of Haitians,’ said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides.

The funds provided will benefit families living in the areas worst affected by the crisis and children suffering from acute malnutrition. Life-saving nutritional support will also be provided to over 5,000 children under the age of 5 who are suffering from acute malnutrition. In parallel, the EU will back measures to strengthen the analysis of the food situation and to improve the quality of the humanitarian response.

The European Commission’s humanitarian assistance pays special attention to victims of forgotten crises, i.e. severe, protracted humanitarian crises where the people affected do not receive sufficient international aid, as is the case in Haiti. Haiti is the main beneficiary of the European Commission’s humanitarian aid to Latin America and the Caribbean, having received €404 million in support since 1994.

Background

Due to its vulnerability to natural hazards and its high levels of poverty, Haiti has limited capacity to cope with recurring emergencies such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and prolonged droughts.

In recent months, the humanitarian situation in Haiti has deteriorated dramatically and the country is facing serious food shortages. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of people in crisis situations or facing food emergencies doubled to 2.6 million, i.e. 25 % of the population. Furthermore, the prevalence of acute malnutrition among children under the age of five remains high, and above World Health Organization (WHO) emergency levels in several locations, including the Nord-Ouest department.

€3 million were earmarked at the end of July 2019 for disaster risk reduction.

In Haiti, particular emphasis is being placed on establishing an effective link between relief, rehabilitation and development (LRRD) to facilitate the transition between emergency relief work and structural development assistance in the country. More specifically, in terms of development cooperation, the amount of EU funding allocated to Haiti is the highest in the region, standing at €420 million for the period 2014-2020. These funds are intended to support development and the fight against poverty in the country by focusing on four key sectors: strengthening and modernising public administration, education, urban development and infrastructure, and food and nutrition security.

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