Facebook limits Messenger and Instagram functionality in Europe
Facebook has temporarily removed some functionality from its Messenger and Instagram offerings, at least for European users. The move is to give the company time to make changes in order to comply with changes to EU privacy regulations, which are currently being enforced by member nations.
Users firing up their apps in the region are being greeted with a pop-up warning “Some features not available – This is to respect new rules for messaging services in Europe. We’re working to bring them back”. The ‘new rules’ it refers to actually date back to 2002 — the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, or ePrivacy Directive, for short. From 21st December (Monday), over-the-top messaging services will fall under this legislation, not just those offered directly by telcos and broadband providers.
Both apps still function as basic messengers, but a lot of the ‘nice-to-have’ interactive stuff is on hold, such as creating polls and giving nicknames to your contact list. Some will continue to function in one-to-one conversations, but not in group chats. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, but Facebook has declined to give a definitive list, saying that there’s no need, as many will be turned back on imminently, once they’ve been soak tested for compliance. In a statement to the BBC, it adds: “We’re still determining the best way to bring these features back. It takes time to rebuild products in a way that work seamlessly for people and also comply with new regulations”.
Given that the type of functionality that has been suspended should have no direct correlation with the new rules, it seems that, for once, Facebook is erring on the side of caution. The ePrivacy Directive simply bans the collection of message content and associated metadata, without the permission of the sender. In other words – for example, scanning your messages in order to tailor advertisements to you. Given that, unless Facebook knows something that we don’t, an oversized smiley sticker shouldn’t break the rules, this looks like a case of Facebook using an abundance of caution against a notoriously litigious European Union.