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.”


Bienvenue! Arab and French-speaking world salutes the launch of Arab News en Français

Updated 44 min 3 sec ago

Bienvenue! Arab and French-speaking world salutes the launch of Arab News en Français

  • New digital edition creates a unique window of communication, Saudi Minister Adel Al-Jubeir says

LONDON: The publication of a French-language digital edition of Arab News was warmly welcomed on Wednesday across the Arab and French-speaking world.
François Gouyette, the French ambassador to Saudi Arabia, launched Arab News en Français on Tuesday — France’s National Day — at a videoconference event attended by Saudi, Arab and French officials, diplomats and journalists, and special guests.
The Arab News French-language edition created “a window of communication between an independent Arab media outlet and French speakers everywhere,” said Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs.

 

“Human beings share common human values ... and language is an important communication tool,” the minister said.
Video footage of a colorful light show at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, marking the launch and congratulating France on its national day, was shared by social media users and commentators around the world.
Ludovic Pouille, the French ambassador to the UAE, said the launch was great news for the French-speaking world.
“I hope that Arab News will become the new Francophone bridge between France and the UAE, between the Gulf and Europe and between Europe and Africa, this big francophone continent with which we have so much to share,” he said.
The publication of Arab News en Français was “a great day for us, for information and for culture, and for relations between France and the Arab world,” said France’s former Culture Minister Jack Lang.
“A French edition can help to publicize the riches and the projects of Saudi Arabia today, and highlight the multiple economic, cultural, educational and scientific projects that this country is giving birth to.”
Lebanese politician and media chief executive Nayla Tuéni said: “The launch of a digital news platform in French by Saudi media is a first. Arab News throws out challenges today against a backdrop of international turmoil and uncertainty.”