Google, Facebook among first accused of breaking GDPR laws

LA Times Blocked Europe
Via @technollama on Twitter

25 May, 2018

Are you among those whose inboxes are flooded by a deluge of emails from companies trying to hold on to their customers?

The GDPR rules dictate that companies working in the European Union must get express consent to collect personal information, or face hefty fines.

Many companies, like Twitter, have recently updated their privacy policies in anticipation of the new law.

General Data Protection Regulation will impact the way personal data is manages across the globe. Instead of separate rules in separate nations across Europe, there's now a single set for the entire EU.

"Anybody that is collecting personal data from European residents - not only citizens - needs to comply with this", Ale Brown, founder of Kirke Management Consulting, said in a phone interview from Vancouver.

Outside the EU, Facebook's latest alert will be sent to users over email and SMS text messages, and appear as a pop-up on Facebook News Feeds. The most famous case involved Cambridge Analytica, who were accused of using the data of more than 87 million Facebook users without consent. In that case, it's often hard to tell when a company is just covering its own ass for totally normal purposes or planning to do something nefarious, and that ambiguousness isn't exactly an accident. Google is embedding video (from its YouTube service, of course) to further explain the concepts. Some are obvious, such as to fulfill contractual obligations - for instance, when an insurer pays out a claim. Other companies may not need to rely on consent for marketing communications. For those few people who used to be happy to get the newsletter and haven't resubscribed, you can go to your User Profile in the top right-hand corner of the page - the Newsletter link is on the right-hand bar.

There's also a somewhat vague category called "legitimate interests".

While the idea of being banned from reading news did not sit all too well with Europeans, some of the top U.S. outlets preferred to stay barred in Europe rather than agree to the new set of privacy rules.

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Facebook, which has more than 2 billion regular users, has also said that advertising allows it to remain free, and that the whole service, including ads, is meant to be personalized based on user data.

Bowman also says that regulators, if they come knocking, are likely to recognize good faith attempts to comply, so it won't hurt to keep records of the company's efforts.

For example, the regulations require companies to report serious data breaches within 72 hours of becoming aware of the problem.

Experts and consultants Moneycontrol spoke to said that most Indian organisations have not taken the regulation seriously. One of the lawful reasons is that they've obtained consent to use it for a specific goal, but there are others like they need it to comply with legal obligations or that collecting it is in the public interest. Until now, there has been little incentive for companies to protect customers' personal information. As a result, websites such as the LA Times, New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun are blocking European users.

Note that the rules are different depending on the data in question.

Facebook has repeatedly said it would offer similar protections to its users outside of the EU. "Companies need clarity to be able to safely extend operations across the EU".

Complaints have been filed against Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Google within hours of new European Union data laws taking effect. In others, even your full name-if it's something common like Robert Smith-might not make you identifiable.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for instance, promised "global settings and controls" for users during his US congressional testimony in April, but was otherwise vague on the subject.

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