How the EU plans to transform data privacy

ID: Under new GDPR rules, anything that can be used to identify you counts as “personal data”.

Who should own our data? With just days to go before Europe introduces tough new privacy laws, yesterday Mark Zuckerberg apologised (again) for any “harm” caused by Facebook.

“I’m sorry for it.”

Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stood in front of key members of the European Parliament and apologised for the way his platform had been “misused”, including the scandals over fake news and Cambridge Analytica.

Many privacy campaigners have hoped that Europe can curb Facebook’s immense power. On Friday that could get a lot easier. That is when new EU-wide privacy rules, known as the GDPR, come into force.

The law says that companies must gain consent to process people’s personal data. (This is why your inbox is probably full of emails asking you to “keep in touch”.) It also means that people can ask companies to delete all of the data currently held about them.

In other words, GDPR has been designed to tip the power back towards ordinary people.

However, some argue that it does not go far enough. Facebook and Google have already been accused of trying to get around the new rules. And when there is so little competition for their services, it becomes harder and harder to opt out.

More and more people are calling for a complete overhaul of the system. Who should own your data?

Information overload

We should, say some. Companies like Facebook have proved that they do not have ordinary people’s interests at heart. Instead, each of us should hold all of our data ourselves. That way, we can only allow access to the companies or government services that we trust to genuinely help us.

Data should be open to all, argue others. There are ways to make it anonymous so that individuals cannot be identified. If it was all held in one secure place then it could be analysed to improve life for everyone — including creating better products, tracking the spread of diseases, or improving the flow of traffic around a city. The future is transparent.

You Decide

  1. Do you trust big companies like Facebook and Google to keep your personal information secure?

Activities

  1. Imagine that you were one of the European Parliament members interviewing Mark Zuckerberg yesterday. Write down the three most important questions you would have for him.

Some People Say...

“Those who rule data will rule the entire world.”

Masayoshi Son

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The deadline for companies to comply with the GDPR is this Friday. Yesterday, Zuckerberg told the EU that Facebook would comply with it fully by that deadline, and extend the policies to the rest of the world too.
What do we not know?
Whether he is telling the truth. We also do not know the answers to many of the EU’s most detailed questions, as the session ran out of time.

Word Watch

Key members
Zuckerberg was questioned by the European Parliament’s “conference of presidents” — a committee of the leaders of its eight main political groups.
Fake news
In the wake of the US presidential election in 2016, Facebook was accused of allowing fake news stories to spread rapidly across its site, potentially swaying the result.
Cambridge Analytica
A British company which used data from 87 million Facebook profiles to create highly targeted political adverts without users’ consent.
GDPR
General Data Protection Regulation.

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