Activist accuses Facebook and Google of breaching GDPR

Privacy group, led by activist Max Schrems, has launched lawsuits worth in excess of €7 billion (US$8.19bn) under Europe’s new data protection law – the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – against Facebook, Google, Instagram, and WhatsApp, accusing them of “coercing” (Irish Times) users into accepting their data collection policies.

GDPR, implemented on May 25, changes how personal data is collected and used, while giving more rights to users.

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The group said people were not being given a “free choice” by the companies accused of being in breach of GDPR, because they have offered a “take it or leave it approach,” which the group effectively described as forced consent.

“You have to have a ‘yes or no’ option,” Schrems said in an interview recorded in Vienna before filing the complaints in various European jurisdictions. “A lot of these companies now force you to consent to the new privacy policy, which is totally against the law.” (Business Insider)

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The four complaints, filed the same day GDPR came into force, strike at the heart of the big tech companies’ business model: providing “free” online services in exchange for user profiling based on a collection of user data.

Schrems added that since Facebook’s Europe headquarters is in Ireland, it’s likely the Irish Data Protection Commissioner will also get involved.

In a following statement to TechCrunch, Facebook responded with the following:

“We have made our policies clearer, our privacy settings easier to find and introduced better tools for people to access, download, and delete their information. Our work to improve people’s privacy doesn’t stop on May 25th. For example, we’re building Clear History: a way for everyone to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, clear this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward.”

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