Facebook CEO’s Mark Zuckerberg has revealed he is not in favour of data localisation in a conversation with author Yuval Noah Harari. A video of this conversation was also posted on the Facebook founder’s official page. The conversation with Harari is part of Zuckerberg’s series of discussions on the future of technology and society for 2019.
Zuckerberg on the topic of data localisation has said that one reason they are not in favour is because of authoritarian governments could then demand access to their citizens’ data and use this to curb dissent. This is an argument that Facebook has also made in the past.
Harari had asked Zuckerberg about the topic of data localisation, which has become a crucial issue globally as well as in India. The author was making the point that as an example India could ask for the citizens of its data to be stored in the country and not in the US.
“So why should it be in America and not in India,” he asked the Facebook CEO. To that Zuckerberg replied that the motives for asking for data localisation would certainly matter.
He added, “I don’t think that either of us would consider India to be an authoritarian country….” Again Harari interjected saying as an exampled India could still want the metadata and data of Indian users to be stored on Indian soil. Zuckerberg said the intent would matter, but cautioned that this could give excuses to other more authoritarian regimes to make the same demands when it came to storing data.
“And I think countries can come at this with open values and still conclude that something like that could be helpful. But I think one of the things that you need to be very careful about is that if you set that precedent you’re making it very easy for other countries that don’t have open values and that are much more authoritarian and want the data…”, he pointed out. According to Zuckerberg, many of the other countries would want the data, not to protect citizens but for surveillance purposes.
In India, payments data is supposed to be stored locally under RBI’s new rules. These rules also ensured that WhatsApp’s payments service was never launched in the country. Data localisation is also gaining interest in other countries. For example, Germany says that telecommunications metadata has to be stored locally.
He also pointed out that the data localisation framework and privacy regulations are very different in some countries from say from what Europe and GDPR offer. Zuckerberg said he was worried that not all countries share the same values for the internet.
“The most likely alternative to each country adopting something that encodes the freedoms and rights of something like GDPR, in my mind, is the authoritarian model, which is currently being spread, which says every company needs to store everyone’s data locally in data centers and then, if I’m a government, I can send my military there and get access to whatever data I want and take that for surveillance or military. I just think that that’s a really bad future,” he said.
“If a government can get access to your data, then it can identify who you are and go lock you up and hurt you and your family and cause real physical harm in ways that are just really deep,” he further cautioned. Zuckerberg said he was “committed to making sure” that Facebook played its role in “keeping the internet as one platform.”
“One of the most important decisions that I think I get to make as the person running this company, is where we’re going to build our data centers and store data. And we’ve made the decision that we’re not going to put data centers in countries that we think have weak rule of law, where people’s data may be improperly accessed which could put people in harm’s way,” he added.
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