Facebook changes its terms and clarify its use of information for consumers following discussions with the European Commission and consumer authorities.

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


The new terms detail what services, Facebook sells to 3rd parties that are based on the employment of their user’s information, how consumers can close their accounts and under what reasons accounts can be disabled. These developments come after exchanges, which aimed at getting 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 simple language in its terms of use. A corporation that wants to restore consumers trust after the Facebook/ Cambridge Analytica scandal should not hide behind complicated, legalistic jargon on how it’s making billions on people’s information. Now, users can clearly understand that their information 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 customers how the social network gets financed and what revenues are derived from the use of consumer information. They additionally 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 doesn’t charge users for its services in return for users’ agreement to share their information and to be exposed to commercial advertisements. Facebook’s terms will now clearly explain that their business model depends on selling targeted advertising services to traders by using the information 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 example in case information 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 consideration the interest of the consumer;


– The rules regarding 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 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 doesn’t fulfil its commitments, national consumer authorities could commit to resort to enforcement measures, as well as 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 prevent 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 corporate, as well as Twitter and Google+ to enhance a number of contract terms.