Journalist Spotlight

David Ingram on exclusive revealing Facebook to put 1.5 billion users out of reach of new EU privacy law

David Ingram on exclusive revealing Facebook to put 1.5 billion users out of reach of new EU privacy law

In April, Reuters reported exclusively that Facebook was changing terms of use for its members so only those based in the European Union would be covered by new EU privacy rules – a change potentially affecting up to 1.5 billion users. The story, by Reuters Technology Correspondent David Ingram, revealed the previously unreported move, which Facebook confirmed to Reuters, which shows the world’s largest online social network is keen to reduce its exposure to GDPR. In a Reuters Best: Journalist Spotlight Q&A, David offers a behind-the-scenes look at how he scored the exclusive.

Q. How did you land this exclusive?

A. My colleagues and I have been writing extensively about privacy and Facebook, especially with the scandal over Cambridge Analytica and the new EU privacy law, GDPR, taking effect soon. That reporting signaled to people that we were interested in the subject, and we heard about this story from sources. Then we went to Facebook, and the company confirmed our reporting.

Q. What types of reporting was involved?

A. Talking to sources from different backgrounds really helped to give us a leg up on this story—especially talking to sources globally, which I think is one of our strengths. But this also involved having prior expertise, because once we heard what Facebook was planning to do, we understood immediately that it would have wide significance.

Q. What was the hardest part of the reporting?

A. One difficult part was how unsettled privacy law is right now, as a legal subject. The new European law, GDPR, does not take effect until May 25, and until then the best anyone can do is make well-educated guesses about how EU authorities will enforce the law and what it will mean for consumers. We need to write our stories with that in mind. Here at least, Facebook was taking a very concrete step, so that limited the guesswork.

Q. Why was this an important story to tell our customers?

A. This story told us something about Facebook’s strategy toward regulation, which is important for our readers to know if they are shareholders, Facebook users or just people interested in regulation. More broadly, for the 1.5 billion people we wrote about in the story, it was important to tell them what was happening with their privacy rights.

Q. What makes you passionate about journalism?

A. I enjoy learning new subjects, especially complicated ones and especially in enough depth that I can explain them to other people. Journalism is one of the few professions where you can do that.

Q. What is your beat and what do you find most fulfilling about it?

A. I write about social media networks as businesses. Primarily that means Facebook, because it’s by far the biggest company in the sector, but I also cover Twitter, Snap and a few others. The past year has shown how much these companies are changing not just business but politics and society, and I enjoy telling all sides of that story.

Q. What have been your most rewarding and most difficult experiences as a journalist?

A. I think it’s always rewarding when you’re serving as a witness to history; when as a journalist you can record a first-hand account of an important event and then exercise your responsibility to share that with readers. The hardest part is reporting stories that relate to death, especially the death of a child.

Q. Can you imagine being anything other than a journalist? If so, what?

A. Maybe a professional fiddle player, if I could play the fiddle, or something involving my most recent hobby, cycling in Northern California.

Q. Anything else you’d like to share?

A. Send me your tips for what Reuters should investigate:

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