Twitter accounts outside of the US now fall under EU data protection rules

Twitter's International headquarters will be in Dublin

Twitter revised its privacy policy over the weekend, changing where it handles the account information of users outside the U.S. and clarifying some points.

As of Saturday, account information for Twitter users outside the U.S. is handled by Twitter International in Dublin, Ireland. This means that all account information will be subject to Irish privacy and data protection law, which is based on the European Union's Data Protection Directive, Twitter said on its site.

The accounts of U.S. users will still be handled by Twitter's head office in San Francisco under U.S. law.

Dublin is popular with U.S. tech companies, which often base their international and EU operations there. The country's favorable corporation tax regime is often seen as a reason for IT companies to settle there -- as is the small staff of its privacy regulator, which has a staff of just 29 to tackle domestic and international companies.

The office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) will have more resources to police companies like Twitter and Facebook, which also controls its European operations from there: In December the Irish government doubled its budget, from €1.89 million (a little over US$2 million) in 2014 to €3.65 million this year.

What's more, since last years "right to be forgotten" ruling gave Spain's privacy regulator the right to enforce EU privacy laws against Google, privacy regulators in other countries have taken this ruling to start their own procedures against tech companies. This means that companies like Twitter and Facebook, which also has its European headquarters in Ireland, are now subject to the scrutiny of privacy regulators other than the Irish DPC.

Meanwhile, the EU is preparing a new Data Protection Regulation under which European privacy regulators are planned to have more cooperation on cross-border privacy cases. In order to prepare for such a system which can be extremely challenging for data protection regulators in the coming years, the Irish DPC will move from a small office in the Irish countryside to Dublin where it will have room for additional expert staff.

Besides changing things for users outside of the U.S., Twitter is also adding a couple of clarifications to its privacy policy, making it easier to read and adding some extra detail, it said.

The company for instance clarified that people signing up for Twitter can use a pseudonym as their name, something that Facebook does not allow. Twitter also clarified that a phone number can be used as contact information.

The changes were made to improve support for users globally, Twitter said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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