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EUROPE’S PRIVACY REGIME IS ONCE AGAIN FORCING BIG TECH to clean up its act globally. A few years ago it was Google (http://bit.ly/1LPZyMB) and now it’s Facebook, which says it will roll out a new privacy centre to give users around the world more control over their data and privacy settings, in order to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): http://reut.rs/2DGEbBA
“Our apps have long been focused on giving people transparency and control and this gives us a very good foundation to meet all the requirements of the GDPR and to spur us on to continue investing in products and in educational tools to protect privacy,” chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said at a Brussels event (oi, you in the back, stop snickering).
So what does this mean, in detail? Dunno – I’ve asked Facebook but haven’t received a response at the time of publication. There’s one thing I’m particularly interested in knowing about: will Facebook give users the ability to download all their personal data in a machine-readable format that would allow them to import it into a rival social network?
That’s what the GDPR demands, but I’d be very surprised if Facebook doesn’t try to skip that element of the regulation. Pleasantly surprised, of course…
SANDBERG ALSO SAID FACEBOOK WOULD DOUBLE the number of people it has working on safety and security to 20,000 by the end of this year. That apparently includes people fighting the scourge of misinformation being circulated in order to make money: http://bit.ly/2GcPIH5
“If we can prevent people from being part of our ad networks, prevent people from advertising and take away the financial incentive, that is one of the strongest things we can do against false news, and we are very focused on this,” Sandberg said.
Facebook is pushing hard on this front at the moment. Earlier this week, it published a couple of essays from experts on platforms and democracy, including a semi-critical piece from Harvard’s Cass Sunstein: http://bit.ly/2n2Ls4b
Fortunately for Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft, the European Commission seems to be backing away from its threats to regulate them over hate speech. Justice commissioner Vera Jourova says the companies are showing more responsibility these days. http://bit.ly/2mQWQjp
MEANWHILE, SALESFORCE CEO MARC BENIOFF SAYS FACEBOOK should face regulation over its addictive qualities, much as cigarette companies are regulated: https://usat.ly/2DAQlMn
THE POLISH GOVERNMENT WANTS “SMALL” BUSINESSES TO BE ABLE to ignore the part of the GDPR that would otherwise force them to tell customers how long their data will be stored for, and what their rights are regarding things such as objections to processing, demands for rectification and deletion, access to their data, data portability, and the right to complain to the Polish data protection authority: http://bit.ly/2n709U5
The government may also want to implement a similar exemption for other parts of the GDPR, including the bit that says companies must tell their customers if they have suffered a data breach that puts their personal data at risk. This isn’t quite clear yet, though, as the government doesn’t seem to know what it wants right now.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of people are deeply concerned about this development, including the Polish data protection authority. The government wants these exemptions to apply to businesses with less than 250 employees, which covers most Polish businesses. Observers say the move would trample over people’s fundamental rights (which is what the GDPR’s various rules are supposed to protect) and perhaps provide extra risk for small businesses, as people will end up trusting them less.
WHAT WILL BREXIT MEAN FOR DATA TRANSFERS between the UK and EU? The Association for Financial Markets in Europe is worried about the implications of this aspect of Brexit, among many other “cliff edge risks”: http://bit.ly/2n4ubZn
In a report released Monday, the AFME said “an arrangement is required to ensure the ongoing free flow of personal data post Brexit”. The EU will of course need to issue an “adequacy decision” at that point that says the UK data protection regime passes muster. According to the AFME, the UK should issue one too, before Brexit takes place. The alternatives, it added, would be “very challenging”.
THE ITALIAN PRIVACY REGULATOR has published a guide for parents to make them aware of the privacy risks associated with “smart toys”: http://bit.ly/2BlEhZX
MAX SCHREMS’S NOYB PRIVACY ORGANISATION has, at the time of writing, just under €215,000 in pledged funding. Its target is €250,000, which it needs to get by the end of January if it is to commence its Big-Tech-tackling operations. Here’s the page where you can join in the fun: http://bit.ly/2E0Z3kC
And yes, if that doesn’t happen, Schrems really will walk off into the sunset: http://bit.ly/2BmO7Ll
THE PRIVACY-FRIENDLY SEARCH OUTFIT DUCKDUCKGO has expanded its arsenal with new mobile apps and browser extensions that block third-party trackers on the sites you visit: http://tcrn.ch/2DFL71N
The new services also include a privacy rating for various websites, based on whether the connection is encrypted, how many trackers are a’tracking, and what the site’s privacy policies are. Yes, there are other browser extensions that monitor this stuff, such as Ghostery, but DuckDuckGo is pushing the integrated nature of its offering.
“In general, I think that privacy is mainstream and people want simple, seamless solutions and they just don’t exist — until now,” CEO Gabe Weinberg claimed. “We expect most of our search engine users to accept and use the extension and the app because it really extends their privacy protection.”
If you’d like me to write articles for you about digital rights issues, speak at your event or provide privacy advice for your business, drop me an email at email@example.com.
AMAZON HAS OPENED ITS FIRST FULLY AUTOMATED STORE to the Seattle public. The store has no staff, and uses sensors and “AI” to recognise when people are taking stuff off the shelves, and to identify people so they can be automatically charged on their way out.
So how’s that working out in practice? CNBC reporters said it most functioned as planned when they tried it out, but they did manage to accidentally shoplift some yoghurt: http://cnb.cx/2E1XbZ2
Teething troubles aside, there’s something deeply dystopic about the whole idea, not just because of the fact that it’s predicated on surveillance technology (let’s just say I don’t expect to see one in Germany anytime soon), but also because of the way it will increase inequality. Is this sort of thing inevitable? I guess – we’re already seeing cashiers disappear in other stores, after all. But there will be political pushback in the not-too-distant future.
Not a problem for Jeff Bezos at the moment, though. The day after the store opened, Amazon’s stock popped 2.5 percent and he got $2.8 billion richer: http://bit.ly/2Dw59bP