EU data laws set to bite after Facebook scandal

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg told US lawmakers last month the firm plans to fall into line with the EU rules as it seeks to rebuild its reputation after the data harvesting by Cambridge Analytica. (AFP)
Updated 14 May 2018

EU data laws set to bite after Facebook scandal

  • One major change is that consumers must explicitly grant permission for their data to be used
  • Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter have all started in the last few weeks to alter their terms of use

BRUSSELS: New EU data protection laws take effect on May 25 to protect users’ online information, in what Brussels touts as a global benchmark after the Facebook scandal.
The laws will cover large tech companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook that use personal data as an advertising goldmine, as well as firms like banks and also public bodies.
One major change is that consumers must explicitly grant permission for their data to be used, while they can also specifically ask for their personal information to be deleted.
Firms face huge fines of up to €20 million or four percent of annual global turnover for failing to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
“It’s your data — take control,” the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, urges the bloc’s 500 million citizens in guidelines for the new rules.
The case for the new rules has been boosted by the recent scandal over the harvesting of Facebook users’ data by Cambridge Analytica, a US-British political research firm, for the 2016 US presidential election.
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg told US lawmakers last month the firm plans to fall into line with the EU rules as it seeks to rebuild its reputation after the breach, which affected 87 million users.
The scandal has proved a godsend for the EU.
EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said in an interview that the incident fueled “a campaign” for the new European law in a way that she could never have done.
She said the EU was setting a global benchmark for data protection as many Americans who once criticized Europe as too set on regulation now see the need for the GDPR.
The Facebook scandal showed “that we really are living in the kind of jungle where we are losing ourselves,” the Czech commissioner added.
But not everything has run smoothly.
At least eight of the 28 EU countries will not have updated their laws by May 25.
The lack of preparedness comes despite the fact that the new laws were officially adopted two years ago, with a grace period until now to adapt to the rules.
This “will create some legal uncertainty,” Jourova said, blaming countries for neglect rather than resistance to the law.
Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter have all started in the last few weeks to alter their terms of use, but the situation appears more complicated for small- and medium-sized firms.
In Germany, the chamber of commerce and industry expressed fears smaller companies may react defiantly to what they call “excessive red tape” under threat of fines.
The new EU law establishes consumers’ “right to know” who is processing their information and what it will be used for.
Individuals will be able to block the processing of their data for commercial reasons and even have data deleted under the “right to be forgotten.”
They will have to be warned when there is unauthorized access, with the law establishing the key principle that individuals must explicitly grant permission for their data to be used.
Parents will decide for children until they reach the age of consent, which member states will set anywhere between 13 and 16 years old.
In return, EU officials argue that digital firms will benefit from regulation that restores consumer confidence and replaces the patchwork of national laws.
European leaders have backed the new laws.
French President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech in Germany last week that he welcomed the “brave choice” of the new law, calling it a cornerstone in a new “digital sovereignty.”


Royal runaways’ media war follows them to Canada

Updated 23 January 2020

Royal runaways’ media war follows them to Canada

LONDON: Prince Harry and his wife Meghan may have quit Britain for a quieter life in Canada but their battle with the media has followed them to the new front line.
Harry believes “powerful forces” in Britain’s tabloids are waging a ruthless propaganda war to vilify his US former actress wife — and he is hitting back through the lawyers.
Having struggled with media scrutiny since their May 2018 wedding, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex abandoned their royal roles this month in a bid for a calmer and more independent life.
But their bombshell departure has made them even more of a story — and media, including paparazzi photographers, have now flocked to their Vancouver Island getaway.
Their lawyers have already issued warnings to the press over pictures of Meghan out walking the dogs near their luxury seafront home.
After a slew of negative stories in the British press, the couple are trying to seize greater control of the narrative.
But they are not shunning all publicity — far from it.
The Sussexes will keep working with their non-royal patronages, but now intend to work with hand-picked media only.
Meghan has already made a couple of visits to women’s charities in nearby Vancouver, while they continue posting content on Instagram, where they have 11 million followers.
Their success in becoming financially independent from the monarchy through creating their own commercial income will largely depend on them remaining hot property.
Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, which campaigns for press freedom, said the couple could not control media scrutiny.
“If Harry and Meghan had said: ‘we want to withdraw completely from public life and occasionally appear for good causes’, I think they would have achieved their aim but they seem to want to have their cake and eat it,” he told AFP.
Harry is “living in cloud cuckoo land” if he thought press relations would magically improve by him stepping away from representing his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II and moving to Canada, said royal biographer Penny Junor.
She said the situation could become worse now they are no longer in the royal fold, where pooled media access to engagements is facilitated through a long-agreed system.
Without that stream of content, news and picture desks might look elsewhere.
“The press might be less respectful than they were before,” Junor, the author of “Prince Harry: Brother. Soldier. Son. Husband.,” told AFP.
The 35-year-old prince, who is sixth in line to the throne, has always had a tumultuous relationship with the press, which he blames for the death of his mother.
Diana, princess of Wales died in 1997 in a car crash. Harry was 12 at the time.
A truce between the papers and the palace meant Harry and his brother Prince William were left alone while they were still in education, in return for a handful of pooled photo opportunities.
But afterwards, Harry quickly turned into a tabloid favorite with his party lifestyle and repeated misdemeanours.
He served 10 years in the British army, including two tours of duty in Afghanistan, and afterwards founded the Invictus Games for wounded veterans.
Harry was praised as a changed man who had found his calling.
“He recognized not only that he could do good things with his title — but also that he needed publicity to do those good things and that a good relationship with the press was very important,” said Junor.
The prince’s relationship with Meghan was welcomed across the board by the press, but media relations soon began to deteriorate.
Reports appeared of staff being unable to work with the “duchess of difficult.”
When their son Archie arrived in May 2019, they announced that Meghan had gone into labor hours after the baby had actually been born, infuriating newsdesks.
The couple’s animosity toward the press spilled over into legal action in October last year, with Harry suing over alleged voicemail interception and Meghan filing a claim over a private letter to her father Thomas Markle appearing in The Mail on Sunday (him having shown it to the tabloid).
“They are going to have to accept that their lifestyle will continue to go under scrutiny,” said Murray, adding that they were living close to the US border.
“The American media are different; they have a vigorous magazine market,” he said.
“There will be an appetite there and around the world for pictures and stories about them.”