GDPR - Is there any choice? - NEW MOMENT DIGITAL
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GDPR – Is there any choice?

18 Jun GDPR – Is there any choice?

What’s happening? What’s happening is that we are being bombarded by messages and notifications about the privacy protection laws whenever we turn on our computers, tablets and smartphones. But does anyone actually read the fine print? Most people only know that it’s happening, but don’t understand its effects. Websites and applications are in a race to notify their users…who will of course not read the notification and if they do, won’t notice any difference in their lives.

You’ve probably already agreed to different services using your information and identity in different ways, when you agreed to the terms of using said service or application. When you agreed to Facebook’s terms of use you agreed to the platform benefiting from your data. I can’t help but wonder did it not occur to these mammoth corporations that people would be bothered by the fact that their data was being used to make money. Probably yes, but did they care? Probably not.

The driving force behind this “change” was the European General Data Protection Regulation – which was approved in 2016 and put into effect on 25 May this year.

The GDPR is a massive 261 page document on privacy, you can read it here. But let’s be honest… ain’t nobody got time for that. The recent wave of privacy policies and terms of use are derived from the section on compliance and taking steps that prevent companies from embedding hidden conditions in the smallest possible letters in enormous contracts and legal documents (that most people do not read before accepting).

Although it is a European rather than an American law, GDPR applies to all companies located anywhere in the world that offer goods or services, or monitor online activities of EU residents. As a result, many multinational companies have chosen to fully integrate GDPR regulations instead of trying to differentiate between customers and end-users.

Since the GDPR is in many ways similar to previous EU privacy laws, this regulation offers an opportunity for end users to control their data, however, resolving any issues may last many years.

Like many other privacy rules, GDPR is based on the principle of notifying users of their personal choice. A company that wants to collect your personal information must first show what kind of information it collects and what it plans to do with it. The user then decides whether to allow the company to collect that information.
What happens people aren’t informed well enough? Absolutely nothing.

These privacy notifications actually do not help people get better information about data protection. Privacy policies are so long and complex that few people try to read them, even fewer understand them. A study in 2008, at the dawn of the revolution of smartphones, determined that a person should devote more than 240 hours a year just to read the privacy policy of the sites they visit. A decade later, with full-featured tablets and smartphones around the world, this commitment could only grow.

Even if you could understand everything that a privacy policy tells you, it’s unlikely that you’ll find out how your personal data is really used, and that’s just for one simple reason: even a web site operator does not know how to use the information it collects!
So let me explain to myself and you – by clicking from one page to another, liking posts on Facebook and engaging in countless online commercial and non-commercial activities – we become data generators. This data makes up a complex ecosystem that data companies and leading media agencies have the keys to.

This data which can only be understood by data analysts are repackaged and sold to advertising agencies and marketing departments. These reports provide insight into the target market/consumer behaviour and inform marketing campaigns – which ultimately can sway users purchase decision making from major decisions such as which bank loan to choose, to simple everyday decisions like which chewing gum to buy.

Actually there is no choice

There is another interesting point to consider: even if you know how the data collected by a website or application will be used, you cannot make any change to suit you. I analyzed the privacy policy of 20 of the most visited websites and found all privacy policies are essentially the same. All use cookies and other technology to track online visitor’s activity, they all collect markers that identify devices that people use to search on the net and almost all allow independent advertising agencies to collect personal information and send targeted ads. The same applies to mobile applications.

When faced with a privacy policy you don’t agree with you are faced with two options. Accept or replace your smart phone with a walkie-talkie.

Beacon of hope

This famous GDPR regulation that everyone is talking about, and nobody understands (including myself after all this research) will in some way enable end users to regain control over their information and data. Among other things, it states that user consent to collect personal information may become void if that service, platform, application, and website collects data that does not correlate with the scope of the service. For example, an application that provides driving directions in a location may request access to your location, but NOT request access to your contact list, as this is not required to provide the mapping services you requested.

Throughout this story, lawyer Max Schrems has been vocal with his complaints about privacy protection. He claims that Facebook and Google have broken this aspect of the GDPR by asking for more consent than is necessary. For example, if you want to use Facebook only to message and share photos with friends, you must agree that Facebook can collect all your personal information as stated in their privacy policy document which has more points than interest you, me and our acquaintances. All companies claim their new privacy policies are fully in line with GDPR, and will continue to be in the coming years. The interpretation of the EU’s Working Group on Personal Data Protection supports the claims of Schrems, but the GDPR document itself is not so crystal clear about the issue.

It remains to be seen how revolutionary this change will be in the advancement of consumer privacy. Perhaps there will be new sustainable alternatives to Facebook and Google. Either way, the consumers are fighting for their right to privacy, showing that alternative methods can become the true competitive advantage.
Tatjana Burg, Digital Account, New Moment

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