GDPR Will Curtail Zuckerberg? Don't Be So Ridiculous

It's hard to imagine what observers were expecting from Zuckerberg's appearance before MEPs yesterday. Having perfected his polished apology for letting down users, he was ready for all questions that came his way. The one that sprung to my mind was whether he realises how much he is starting to look like Data from Star Trek.

One of the oddest observations from The Drum report on his appearance is the suggestion that there is a background feeling in Brussels that GDPR is an attempt by the EU to curtail the data excesses of the duopoly. I can't think of anything that could be further from the truth. Chat to most people familiar with digital marketing and data collection and they will usually suggest the law could have been written by the tech duopoly themselves.

There are two huge exceptions to this point, of course. The new protection for sensitive information, such as religion, race, sexual orientation, political affiliations and trade union activity. Like any other organisation, the two giants can no longer store what they know about us in these special areas without our explicit consent. Then we have children's data only being processed with parental consent. 

These two new rules are going to require additional consent that was not required before. I think these two points are where we will see the early headlines about GDPR concerns, once it becomes law on Friday. 

It will only take a few parents to complain that their underage children have been allowed on Facebook to kick up a stink. Then imagine the furore if the duopoly continues to process sensitive data after Friday. I have said it before, and I will say it again, The Times has been running many stories criticising the duopoly. It is difficult to imagine they don't already have exposes half-written about underage children and sensitive data about users' sexuality and political leanings being abused.

Aside from these two areas where Facebook, in particular, has to get it right or face a massive fine, the law is a gift to anyone who provides a service in return for data. 

Just think about it. How many emails are in your inbox right now warning of a new privacy policy or asking permission to carry on emailing you? I bet you're ignoring several brands you can't remember connecting with, and in some cases, that will mean the relationship will fizzle out from Friday.

Can you imagine doing that with Google or Facebook? People aren't going to ditch Gmail or their YouTube accounts, nor are they going to delete Facebook. Sure, there will be talk of it, nothing will happen and then the next set of figures will once again show record profits from the two companies that account for more than half of the UK's total digital marketing budget. 

They're going to have to forget what they know about a person's race, sexuality, politics and religion until they are told they are OK to process that data. With kids, I suspect Facebook will just shrug and say these children told us they're old enough, and then allow parents to name any children using the service before they are legally of age.

As for the MEPs, all Zuckerberg had to do was say sorry for past transgressions, again, and point out he now employs 20,000 people to check the site for hate speech, fake news and terror related information. And there's no need to worry about another CA because the platform doesn't share data with third-party developers any more. 

It's a well-practised routine, but it's effective. What is the EU going to do? Charge him for some transgressions? If so, what? 

The big opportunity will come after Friday. Trust me -- if Zuckerberg is stupid enough not to have ensured that all sensitive data permissions receive explicit consent, then he deserves to be thrown to the lions. Of course, it won't happen -- it's a bear trap that is far too obvious not to avoid. As for the children, who's to blame? Facebook or children lying about their age? Expect a "take my child off Facebook" service to emerge at some stage.

As for GDPR being the EU's way of curtailing the duopoly's data powers, I would suggest the tech giants who supply a service in return for data are the least likely to be impinged by consumers who want that service and will just tick a box if needed. It's the people who just want to keep telling you about their latest offers who stand to lose the most, not the people bringing you skateboarding kittens.

Next story loading loading..