Author Topic: How GDPR Is Failing  (Read 26 times)

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How GDPR Is Failing
« on: May 25, 2022, 06:20:22 PM »
The world-leading data law changed how companies work. But four years on, there’s a lag on cleaning up Big Tech.

ONE THOUSAND FOUR hundred and fifty-nine days have passed since data rights nonprofit NOYB fired off its first complaints under Europe’s flagship data regulation, GDPR. The complaints allege Google, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram forced people into giving up their data without obtaining proper consent, says Romain Robert, a program director at the nonprofit. The complaints landed on May 25, 2018, the day GDPR came into force and bolstered the privacy rights of 740 million Europeans. Four years later, NOYB is still waiting for final decisions to be made. And it’s not the only one.

Since the General Data Protection Regulation went into effect, data regulators tasked with enforcing the law have struggled to act quickly on complaints against Big Tech firms and the murky online advertising industry, with scores of cases still outstanding. While GDPR has immeasurably improved the privacy rights of millions inside and outside of Europe, it hasn’t stamped out the worst problems: Data brokers are still stockpiling your information and selling it, and the online advertising industry remains littered with potential abuses.

Now, civil society groups have grown frustrated with GDPR’s limitations, while some countries’ regulators complain the system to handle international complaints is bloated and slows down enforcement. By comparison, the information economy moves at breakneck speed. “To say that GDPR is well enforced, I think it’s a mistake. It's not enforced as quickly as we thought,” Robert says. NOYB has just settled a legal case against the delays in its consent complaints. “There’s still what we call an enforcement gap and problems with cross-border enforcement and enforcement against the big players,” adds David Martin Ruiz, a senior legal officer at the European Consumer Organization, which filed a complaint about Google’s location tracking four years ago.

Lawmakers in Brussels first proposed reforming Europe’s data rules back in January 2012 and passed the final law in 2016, giving companies and organizations two years to fall in line. GDPR builds upon previous data regulations, super-charging your rights and altering how businesses must handle your personal data, information like your name or IP address. GDPR doesn’t ban the use of data in certain cases, such as police use of intrusive facial recognition; instead, seven principles sit at its heart and guide how your data can be handled, stored, and used. These principles apply equally to charities and governments, pharmaceutical companies, and Big Tech firms.

Crucially, GDPR weaponized these principles and handed each European country’s data regulator the power to issue fines of up to 4 percent of a firm's global turnover and order companies to stop practices that violate GDPR's principles. (Ordering a company to stop processing people’s data is arguably more impactful than issuing fines.) It was never likely that GDPR fines and enforcement were going to flow quickly from regulators—in competition law, for instance, cases can take decades—but four years after GDPR started, the total number of major decisions against the world’s most powerful data companies remains agonizingly low.

UNDER THE DENSE series of rules that make up GDPR, complaints against a company that operates in multiple EU countries are usually funneled to the country where its main European headquarters are based. This so-called one-stop-shop process dictates that the country leads the investigation. The tiny nation of Luxembourg handles complaints against Amazon; the Netherlands deals with Netflix; Sweden has Spotify; and Ireland is responsible for Meta’s Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, plus all of Google’s services, Airbnb, Yahoo, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple, and LinkedIn.

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