Facebook Halts EU Election Reminders Amid Privacy Concerns
(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. halted its election-day reminder feature in Europe amid concerns raised by its lead privacy watchdog in the European Union.
The social network confirmed that the tool, designed to boost voter turnout, “will not be activated during any EU elections” until it addresses potential issues about how users’ information may be handled, Ireland’s data protection commission said in a statement on its website Thursday.
The U.S. tech giant has for several years been reminding voters to head to the polls on election days around the world. But even that seemingly non-partisan prompt has raised questions in Europe as regulators have grown increasingly skeptical of the technology giant.
There have been questions about what data Facebook collects and whether it adequately informs its users about its data collection efforts. There have also been questions about the political influence of Facebook’s nudge to voters.
“We believe that the Election Day reminder is a positive feature which reminds people to vote and helps them find their polling place,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. “We are committed to processing people’s information lawfully, fairly, and in a transparent manner. However, following concerns raised by the Irish data protection commission around whether we give users enough information about how the feature works, we have paused this feature in the EU for the time being. We will continue working with the DPC to address their concerns.”
The Irish watchdog said it contacted Facebook ahead of the nation’s general elections on Feb. 8, saying the reminder “raised a number of data protection concerns, particularly around transparency to users about how personal data is collected when interacting with the feature and subsequently used by Facebook.”
The authority added that it “sought a number of remedial actions from Facebook.”
Facebook is among a long list of U.S. companies facing scrutiny by the Irish data protection commission, Google, Apple Inc. and Twitter Inc. A case concerning Facebook’s WhatsApp is slated to be among the first of at least 20 investigations for possible EU privacy violations to be concluded.
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