The travails of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica make for painful reading. Today, another social media titan entered the fray – WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton backed calls for users to delete their Facebook accounts, following revelations the data of 50 million users was harvested by an analytics company. Can GDPR help?
John Tanner writes in Disruptive/Asia that deleting or banning Facebook is a facile solution: Facebook is not the first company harvesting data, and it certainly won’t be the last. Anyone in digital marketing knows that if you’re not paying, you’re the product. A quick visit to your Google dashboard’s account settings gives an unnerving understanding of how every search term, movement and purchase is meticulously tracked. I know of companies who even track at the domain name server (DNS) level to allow companies to track your intentions in real-time.
The fact of the matter is that industry has moved on, leaving the common man behind: much like the sub-prime issue of a decade ago. While we care about our own privacy and really don’t want people that we don’t agree with to get their hands on our data, we don’t really understand about what this data really is, and how it is exploited. And this is especially true of our children, who use social media in all innocence, trusting it with boundless optimism. This video rather vividly demonstrates how much of our lives we happily reveal on Facebook and other social media platforms.
I have had several discussions in the past week on whether GDPR, and its sister ePrivacy, will help once they come into effect in a few weeks. They certainly intend to: the regulations are based on the principle that personal data belongs to the person and third parties are obligated to respect that ownership.
GDPR + ePrivacy will require every company to get clear and specific consent from any user for any piece of information collected and stored – including cookies, and for data to be deleted as soon as it has been processed. Any company with an online presence must be working hard to comply with GDPR and I hope they will go in the right direction.
- I hope we are not faced with a series of cascading consent boxes that we click as mindlessly as we accept long terms and conditions documents today.
- I hope that companies embrace the spirit of the thing – and inform consumers in simple language what they intend to do with the data they collect, who they plan to sell it to, and so on.
- I hope we are given the option of buying useful or fun content if we’re not prepared to accept those terms.
- And I really hope that challengers come along who disrupt the data-gluttons with new business models or ways of doing things – including giving consumers the option to pay for content or access. If not, the regulators will just have to become more and more draconian.