With the tough new General Data Protection Regulations coming into force on 25 May, companies around the world are being forced to notify their users to accept new privacy policies and data processing terms to continue to use the services.
But Giovanni Buttarelli, the European data protection supervisor (EDPS), lambasted the often-hostile approach of the recent deluge of notifications.
“If this encounter seems a take-it-or-leave it proposition – with perhaps a hint of menace – then it is a travesty of at least the spirit of the new regulation, which aims to restore a sense of trust and control over what happens to our online lives,” said Buttarelli. “Consent cannot be freely given if the provision of a service is made conditional on processing personal data not necessary for the performance of a contract.”
“The most recent [Facebook] scandal has served to expose a broken and unbalanced ecosystem reliant on unscrupulous personal data collection and micro-targeting for whatever purposes promise to generate clicks and revenues.
“The digital information ecosystem farms people for their attention, ideas and data in exchange for so called ‘free’ services. Unlike their analogue equivalents, these sweatshops of the connected world extract more than one’s labour, and while clocking into the online factory is effortless it is often impossible to clock off.”
While data protection and privacy has become a hot-button issue in part thanks to the Cambridge Analytica files, Buttarelli is concerned that it is simply being used as part of the “PR toolkit” of firms. He said that there is “a growing gulf between hyperbole and reality, where controllers learn to talk a good game while continuing with the same old harmful habits”.
A new social media subgroup of data protection regulators will be convened in mid-May to tackle what Buttarelli called the “manipulative approaches” that must change with GDPR.
“Brilliant lawyers will always be able to fashion ingenious arguments to justify almost any practice. But with personal data processing we need to move to a different model,” said Buttarelli. “The old approach is broken and unsustainable – that will be, in my view, the abiding lesson of the Facebook/ Cambridge Analytica case.”