CERN: We're ditching Facebook Workplace. Here's why

CERN is to demand that Facebook removes all its content from Workplace by January 31.

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European scientific research giant CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has killed its use of Facebook's Workplace collaboration platform because it is dissatisfied with the company's approach to fees and data control. 

CERN announced the move this week, which ends a nearly four-year trial with Facebook Workplace and means CERN will remove its presence from the platform on January 31, 2020. 

The Switzerland-based organization has about 2,600 full-time employees but nearly 18,000 users, and although it wasn't among Facebook's paid customers, it is a prestigious customer to lose. 

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CERN makes clear it was not satisfied with the way Facebook engaged with it after introducing new paid plans last year and highlights user dissatisfaction with the product. 

"In particular, for CERN, [Workplace by Facebook] made the enticing offer of waiving the fees and so we took the opportunity to test the platform," CERN said.  

"Representatives from HR, IT and IR worked together to carry out dedicated trials within their department/sector to gather feedback. Reactions were not always positive."

Facebook last July announced that it had three million paid users after introducing the new paid plans. According to CERN, after rolling out the new plans, Workplace by Facebook gave it "a choice of either paying to continue with the initially free set-up or downgrading to a free version that would remove administrative rights and CERN single sign-on access, and send all data to Facebook".  

CERN says it has opted to drop Workplace because losing control of its data and paying for a tool that is not core to the CERN community are "unacceptable".  

Besides the free tier, Workplace charges $4 per user per month for the advanced subscription, and $8 per person a month for the enterprise plan. Workplace also has a $1.50 plan for frontline workers.

The science organization has suggested alternatives that its users can switch to now, including open-source collaboration platform Mattermost and open-source forum and mailing list app Discourse

CERN's IT department intends to ask Facebook to disable CERN Workplace functionality and remove all its content by the end of January.

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Facebook said it started renewal conversations with some customers last October when it updated its pricing and packaging and it is sorry CERN has taken this decision.

"We serve thousands of highly regulated companies, like banks and governments, and have industry-standard security certifications like SOC2, SOC3, ISO27001 and ISO27018," the company said.

"We also offer our technology for free to global charities, educational institutions, and emergency services organizations through our Workplace for Good program."