The EU’s European Data Protection Supervisor, Giovanni Buttarelli, has warned that companies may continue mining personal data even following the entry into force of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
As the EU’s independent data protection authority, the European Data Protection Supervisor is responsible for ensuring that organisations comply with GDPR rules when the legislation enters into force on 25 May. However, in an editorial anticipating the launch of the legislation, Buttarelli warned that for some companies, efforts to mine user data would continue unabated.
In particular, he highlighted changes to the privacy policies of a number of large companies in an attempt to ensure that they comply with GDPR. In many cases, users are told that they must agree to new terms, or they will be unable to use free services.
However, Buttarelli expressed concern that in agreeing to these new privacy policies or terms and conditions, users are also agreeing to share their data in much the way they have already been, and in ways that GDPR aims to address.
What did Buttarelli say?
The European Data Protection Supervisor drew attention to the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, and suggested that many companies could continue operating in the same way following the implementation of GDPR.
He explained: ‘The most recent 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 aim of GDPR is to secure the right of EU citizens to privacy, Buttarelloi went on, but many companies are updating their terms of conditions to provide legal cover for potentially unethical activities. He said: ‘Companies whose business model depends on tracking are now asking their customers to say whether they agree to, for example, the use of sensitive data and data from outside sources… People feel pushed towards clicking ‘I accept’.’
Buttarelli concluded: ‘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.’