Google will remove British users’ accounts from Ireland headquarters, where the European Union privacy regulators are, to United States jurisdiction instead, sources related to the plan told Reuters Wednesday.
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The company intends to require its U.K. users to acknowledge new terms of service including the new jurisdiction. However, this decision will leave the sensitive personal information of tens of millions with less protection and within easier reach of British law enforcement.
Ireland, current residence where Google and other U.S. tech companies have their European headquarters, is staying in the EU, which has one of the world’s most robust data protection rules, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The decision of removing the accounts from the Irish jurisdiction was taken because it is unclear whether Britain will follow GDPR or adopt other rules that could affect the handling of user data, sources explained. If British users have their data kept in Ireland, it would be more difficult for U.K. authorities to recover it in criminal investigations.
This move may make it easier for British authorities to obtain data from U.S. companies. It's also probable a negotiation of a broader trade agreement between both governments.
“There’s a bunch of noise about the U.K. government possibly trading away enough data protection to lose adequacy under GDPR, at which point having them in Google Ireland’s scope sounds super-messy,” Google’s former lead for global privacy technology Lea Kissner, said.
“Never discount the desire of tech companies not be caught in between two different governments,” she added.
Other U.S. companies like Facebook in the same position are expected to make similar choices.