EU chiefs plan wider probe of social media data practices

DataIQ News

European Union data protection chiefs sitting on the Article 29 Working Party have set up a dedicated group to launch a wider investigation into the harvesting of personal data from social media networks for both economic or political purposes.

The formation of the Social Media Working Group follows the ongoing Cambridge Analytica row, sparked by revelations that the data company "slurped" the personal information of over 87 million Facebook users.

The UK Information Commissioner's Office is leading the European probe into the scandal, and in a statement WP29 said it fully supported "the ongoing investigations by national privacy authorities into the collection and use of personal data by and through social media”.

In response to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's apology in front  of a Congressional hearing, WP29 chair Andrea Jelinek said: “A multi-billion dollar social media platform saying it is sorry simply is not enough. While Cambridge Analytica and Facebook are on top of everyone’s mind we aim to cast our net wider and think long-term.

"This is why we are creating a Social Media Working Group. What we are seeing today is most likely only one instance of the much wider spread practice of harvesting personal data from social media for economic or political reasons.

“WP29 is fully aware, however, that the issue is broader and concerns other actors, such as app developers and data brokers,” she said. “The work of this Social Media Working Group will continue after the establishment of the European Data Protection Board. The EDPB will have a wide range of competences in order to ensure the consistency of the application of the GDPR.

“The protection of individuals against unlawful use of their personal data on social media platforms will be one of our key priorities.”