There has been a lot of flurry around the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), its enforcement and consequences. The GDPR prohibits organizations from collecting the data of any EU user without explicit consent, the absence of which invites hefty fines. Following the GDPR rollout, companies ran helter-skelter to update their privacy policies and users received a barrage of emails informing them of the same.
With this came a blow for tech giants like Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB) which faced several GDPR-related complaints spearheaded by activist Max Schrems and his organization None Of Your Business (NOYB). Google and Facebook are looking at hefty fines for the same.
Max and gang are not alone in their rally against the titans. They have been joined by a French digital rights and privacy advocacy group named La Quadrature du Net, which is going after not just the search and social media behemoths but their pals Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL) and the Microsoft-owned LinkedIn as well.
Earlier this week, La Quadrature lodged seven complaints with France’s data protection authority CNIL against the companies as mentioned earlier, raising concerns over forced consent. As the GDPR allows advocacy groups to file charges on behalf of victims, the issues gain weight. La Quad has received thousands of signatures on its complaints which the group worked on for weeks.
Although most companies have added the data collection consent option falling in line with GDPR rules, some have blocked users from accessing their services until the consent for data processing is given. This kind of arm-twisting undermines the entire purpose of the law.
La Quadrature is not done. The group is working on more complaints targeting WhatsApp, Instagram, and Skype. Google received multiple complaints about its YouTube, Gmail and Search services and by the looks of it, Facebook is likely to get a similar hit.
La Quadrature lodged seven complaints with the CNIL against leading tech companies over forced consent
The CNIL will get in touch with its peer agencies in the European countries where these firms are headquartered. Although the number of complaints comes to around 12, in light of the difficulties and delays involved, the group was advised by the CNIL to limit the number to seven for now. The rest will be filed later. It will be interesting to watch just how much the complaints filed by these advocacy groups combined will fetch in fines for the large tech companies and how it would affect their numbers.
If you think there is so much fuss over the GDPR right now, well, there is more to come. Several industry groups are raising a hue and cry over another pending stricter regulation called the ePrivacy Regulation. This law targets electronic communications and all companies that provide messaging services such as WhatsApp and Skype will have to get explicit consent from users before collecting any information about their interactions. This includes video game companies that offer players the option to communicate with each other.
Many companies and trade groups have complained that such stringent rules would kill off digital growth and development along with any kind of innovation. The groups have also argued that services which were now free would end up being charged in future.
They claim that in some cases data collection is necessary, like safety information for autonomous vehicles, and if it were completely prohibited, it would lead to a future in which a multitude of apps and services would have to shut down. Even as these groups object to this regulation, there are members of the government that believe such regulations are absolutely necessary to protect users. The debate continues.