Meta has announced plans to give European users more control over their data-sharing preferences on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. However, it is unclear whether users outside of Europe will have the same level of autonomy. Let’s take a closer look at the situation.
The merging of Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram DMs began in 2020, and Meta also combined Instagram and Facebook profiles and pages. This allowed for cross-posting and centralized account management. However, Meta is now disabling this feature for some users, which personally, I’m not a fan of.
So, what exactly is changing? In March 2024, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) will come into effect, aiming to promote fair competition in the digital market and reduce the dominance of large tech companies. Meta’s new features address the requirements of the DMA by providing users with more control over their data:
- Unlinking Instagram and Facebook accounts: Users can keep their accounts linked for cross-platform benefits or manage them separately to prevent data sharing between the two platforms.
- Independent Facebook Messenger: Users have the option to have a standalone Messenger account without it being linked to their Facebook profile.
- Choice in Marketplace and Gaming: Users can decide whether to share their Facebook information to personalize experiences in the Marketplace and Gaming sections or opt for a non-personalized experience, although there may be limitations.
- Opt-out of ad personalization: Users can pay a subscription fee to use Facebook and Instagram without personalized ads, a feature that has been available since November 2023.
Who will have access to these changes? These updates apply to countries within the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland. All 27 EU countries are also EEA countries, but Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway are in the EEA but not in the EU.
Here is the list of countries that will see these changes:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
But what about other European countries? While these enhancements provide transparency and control for users in the EEA, there is uncertainty regarding users in non-EU countries. Meta’s blog post emphasizes compliance with the DMA, suggesting that these features may specifically cater to European regulations.
Additionally, the announcement does not mention whether these options will be rolled out globally or to EU users outside of the EU, EEA, and Switzerland. It specifically details benefits for EU users who unlink their accounts, such as email communication for the Marketplace instead of Messenger. This further suggests a focus on this region.
In other words, it seems that users in non-EU and non-EEA countries will not have the same level of control over their Meta accounts. This includes countries like Russia, Ukraine, the UK, and Serbia, where I unfortunately reside.
Although Meta offers some privacy tools for users worldwide, the granular control and choice provided by these recent changes are likely to remain limited to the 31 countries mentioned earlier.
So, what about the rest of the world? It is not clear whether these enhanced privacy features will ever extend to users outside of the EU, EEA, and Switzerland in Europe or beyond. However, for those living in these countries, the DMA regulation will be implemented in March 2024, indicating that the new Meta features may be released around the same time.