EU data chief lays into GDPR repermissioning as CA shuts

DataIQ News

The head of data protection at the European Commission, Giovanni Buttarelli, has launched a stinging attack on social media and tech firms over a barrage of privacy policy emails in the run up to GDPR, claiming the Facebook data scandal has exposed a "broken and unbalanced ecosystem reliant on unscrupulous personal data collection".

In recent weeks, Facebook, Microsoft and Google have all updated their privacy policies to bring them in line with the new regulation but Buttarelli claims many are using scare tactics in their notifications.

He said: “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. 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.”

The move comes as the Cambridge Analytica (CA) has revealed it is shutting up shop, due to an exodus of customers and suppliers following the Facebook row.

In a statement, the company said: “Over the past several months, Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of numerous unfounded accusations and, despite the company’s efforts to correct the record, has been vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas.

“Despite Cambridge Analytica’s unwavering confidence that its employees have acted ethically and lawfully, which view is now fully supported by [Queen’s Counsel Julian] Malins’ report, the siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers.”

The Information Commissioner's Office has insisted the move will not affect its ongoing investigation into the company.