The current crisis between Europe and the young Facebook and Instagram CEO Mark Zuckerberg may have economic, technical, and legal sides to it, but the philosophical political aspect of the row is the most important.
Zuckerberg had threatened to deprive Europe of his company’s vital services and products if Europe does not “yield” to his terms and acknowledge his “right” to use users’ data on US servers only.
But, the concerned European officials had a witty response to the warning, according to media reports. Germany’s new Economy Minister, Robert Habeck, told reporters during a meeting in Paris last Monday that he has lived without Facebook and Twitter for four years after being hacked, and “life has been fantastic.” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had a similar view to his German colleague, confirming that life would be very good without Facebook.
Meta, formerly known as Facebook, had warned that if it is not allowed to transfer, store, and process European users’ data in US-based servers, Facebook and Instagram could be shut down across all Europe.
Zuckerberg had cautioned in an annual report that his company’s main problem lies in the transfer of data across the Atlantic Ocean, a process regulated by the so-called Privacy Shield and other agreements according to which Meta stores the data of European users on US servers.
This is a clash between several first-world states and one young American business owner, who commands everyone else in his company. He is basically giving Europeans this equation: ‘Either you yield to my terms on the usage and monopoly of your citizens’ data, or I excommunicate you from my paradise.’ Zuckerberg’s Meta had underlined the “utmost importance” of data sharing between countries and regions for its ability to provide its services and targeted ads. The current agreements to enable data transfers are under heavy scrutiny in the EU at the moment, according to Meta.
However, the European Court of Justice had canceled in July 2020 the convention that Meta upholds with tenacity due to data privacy violations. A new version of the convention has yet to be issued.
We must monitor this big battle: if the European bloc wins this battle against Meta, which feeds off people’s data, states an the state concept will have prevailed over the Meta-state (in simpler terms, beyond-the-state) logic.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.