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Europe data protection head has strong words for platform players over GDPR

The European Data Protection Supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli, has set an agenda to tackle the “unbalanced ecosystem” being created in the digital economy. In a blog post, he has strong words for the big platform players: “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. I am reminded of this state of affairs by the recent stream of messages from online service providers about changes to their terms and conditions and privacy policies. The messages vary of course and some explicitly cite the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation] as the reason for the change. Failure to accept the new terms by 25 May, we are told, will mean we can no longer use these services. For most people outside the esoteric data protection bubble this represents first contact with the new dispensation of digital rights and obligations in the EU. 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.” He added: “As the state of things digital becomes gradually clearer, there are already noises suggesting that if you object to being tracked in exchange for the 'free' services on which many of which our lives now depend, then the only alternative is to pay. But the fundamental right to privacy and related freedoms like free speech and non-discrimination apply to all; they cannot be the exclusive privilege of those who can afford to pay… The broader reality is that accountability and obligations in the GDPR are scalable, with data protection authorities empowered to enforce the law with rigour proportionate to the scale of the violation. Controllers responsible for personal data processing on a massive scale, involving data of the most sensitive nature, face by far the biggest challenge in demonstrating the lawfulness and indeed ethical grounds for what they have been doing over the last decade or two… Data protection emerged in the 1970s and 1980s as a response to the automation of processing operations and new forms of communication. Massive digitisation and machine learning are demanding new and smarter policy responses: stronger enforcement but also empowerment through tools like meaningful consent; ethics and accountability and a fairer allocation of the digital dividend… Let's hope that just like the dehumanising working conditions of the sweatshops of the 19th century, the abuses so prevalent in early phase of digitisation are soon to be consigned to the history books.”  Read more

  • Monday, 21 May 2018

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