Facebook appears to be setting itself up as an opponent of privacy security efforts, even as it continues to argue that such attempts do more harm than good. In Europe, it is seeking to understand why certain functions have suddenly become inaccessible on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram in order to comply with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive (ePrivacy Directive). It also indicates, however, in the same breath, that this new law will potentially put users at greater risk because Facebook would not be able to report inappropriate content and behavior.
The ePrivacy Directive, in short, prevents businesses from storing and processing metadata containing the actual content of communications. This refers not only to SMS and e-mail, but to “over-the-top” messaging systems, such as instant messengers, as well.
It has already been revealed that, while it works to comply with the Order, Facebook has temporarily turned off some Messenger and Instagram features in Europe. It would not even be feasible for users outside the area who want to use such features while talking to someone in the EU to do so. Facebook claims it has prioritized returning core features to the services, but others, such as surveys, can take some time because metadata is required by default to be used.
Nevertheless, the social media giant indicates a more drastic effect of the ePrivacy Order beyond not being allowed to perform chat polls. It argues that in order to identify and respond to unsafe content and events, such as child abuse and illicit materials, it hinders messaging and calling services. Writing between the lines pretty much means that if such events start to escalate in the region, Facebook will blame the European Commission.
Whether that would really be the case and whether Facebook will not establish any other means to avoid such negative use of its services could be debatable. However, it is hardly arguable that the social network still uses this form of metadata for other reasons, which eventually helps the business itself, perhaps even for a profit.