Without realizing it we incessantly store heaps of personal information on the net every day

Dr. Bissera Zankova
Media 21 Foundation, Bulgaria

Beyond doubt the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica data scandal was one of the highlights of 2018. The theft of personal data of millions of people’s from their Facebook profiles without any knowledge and consent was considered a watershed moment in the public understanding of personal data usage by social networks. The revelation that Cambridge Analytica violated data protection rules for political purposes provoked widespread indignation in society. The scandal resulted in massive calls for tighter regulation of companies’ data management without careful analysis as to how this will impact free and open communication.

If the enforcement of GDPR in May 2018 harmonizing European data privacy law and demanding stricter data control in all social spheres can be considered a counterpoint to the Analytica debacle Internet users are far from being reassured that they can safely do their work online. Still many questions regarding the activities of Google and FB vis-à-vis privacy protection are waiting for proper answers. The European data regulation itself is also heavily criticized by liberal minded experts either for its complicated rules and the problems of their transposition into domestic legislation or for being “an innovation-killer” raising significant entry barriers, imposing significant ongoing compliance costs and ossifying the business environment. (Goldman 2019)

When contemplating the numerous opportunities Google and FB possess to trace people’s location, activities, interests and preferences the author of the article “Are you ready? Here is all the data Facebook and Google have on you”  Dylan Curran  describes how on a continuous basis wittingly or unwittingly users place their data at the disposal of the Internet companies.  Summarizing the ways Google and FB manage peoples’ data he comes to the frightening conclusion that “the harvesting of our personal details goes far beyond what many of us could imagine.”

The material provides insights that in serving our daily professional and intellectual needs on and through the web a huge amount of personal information is stored on Google and FB and warns that this can be used in millions of nefarious ways.

Apparently a reaction to the Analytica data scandal means the conclusions reached in the article are valid today as well. They explain clearly the risks to human rights generated by the Internet and especially by social networks and search engines. Curran’s arguments can be a basis for the elaboration of a personal digital strategy of every user to protect their privacy. Within a more general context the article can be a good example that the implementation of consistent digital literacy and education policy is a must in the convergent environment. Regulation as an option is not mentioned here but self-regulation which is viewed as a much more effective mechanism in the digital reality should start from adjusting our own behavior and habits in order to stay more secure on the net.

The article is accessible at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/28/all-the-data-facebook-google-has-on-you-privacy

The information is prepared by the team of the COMPACT project.

COMPACT is a Coordination and Support Action funded European Commission under framework Horizon 2020.

The objective of the COMPACT project is to increase awareness (including scientific, political, cultural, legal, economic and technical areas) of the latest technological discoveries among key stakeholders in the context of social media and convergence. The project will offer analyses and road maps of related initiatives. In addition, extensive research on policies and regulatory frameworks in media and content will be developed.

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