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GDPR - our privacy is not for sale, anymore!

This week is very special for European citizens regarding the protection of their data. First, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect this Friday. Second, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be auditioned and questioned by the European Parliament over the Cambridge Analytica Scandal today.

Personal data became one of the most valuable assets in our digital and interconnected world. Our privacy has become “the new oil” - commodified and open for exploitation by big businesses. Yet the recent Cambridge Analytica Scandal shows that  the issue goes way beyond advertisement targeting. Private data can be used to influence voters’ preferences and election results without the users even noticing. This presents a major risk for our democracies. Such challenges can only be tackled through stronger control over personal data collection and use. We need to give the citizens the power to decide how can companies deal with their personal information.

On Friday 25th May, the new General Data Protection Regulation (also known as GDPR) will come into force.

GDPR brings new rules in the protection of our data: 

  • It applies to all companies, which control or process data on people living in the EU even if the company itself is not located in the European Union. This solves problems with companies like Facebook or Google which were almost impossible to regulate since they are not based in the EU. 
  • It demands greater transparency with people on how their data is collected and processed.
  • It requires organisations to meet elevated data protection mandates and notify when personal data is breached.
  • It applies on every data process, on both direct and indirect data identifiers in every data system.
  • The former data protection precaution from 1995 was just a directive, the GDPR is a regulation, which means it applies to all member states directly and it is not necessary for them to enshrine the GDPR into their own laws.  

“The GDPR is a ground-breaking instrument in personal data protection. Europe is now paving the way for the protection of privacy globally. Companies who want to operate in Europe will need to follow,” says Zuzana Pavelková, Co-Spokesperson of FYEG. 

“We cannot stress enough the contribution of the Greens, and especially the MEP Jan-Philipp Albrecht, a former Young Green, who has invested years of hard work in making GDPR a reality. The GDPR is a major Green victory and a signal towards our voters that the Greens deliver on their electoral promises,” explains Katri Ylinen, Co-Spokesperson of FYEG.

Meanwhile, today 22nd May, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg will be auditioned in the European Parliament. Zuckerberg’s hearing follows the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which revealed that Facebook used and sold personal data of about  50 millions users without their consent to the data analytics company, which later made use of this data to influence voters’ behavior.

While we expect Zuckerberg to have some good answers ready on how he will prevent the illegal misuse of our data in the future, the scandal also shows that we cannot expect the market to regulate itself to ensure data protection. The Internet is a public space that must not be exploited by companies or powerful interest groups. The same rights and liberties that are expected offline must be guaranteed online. The European legislators have done their job, we expect the national governments, as well as the private sector to follow!