Facebook and Google Have a Big EU Data Problem


Google and Facebook could be forced to rethink the way they use customer data in the EU, with reports today suggesting that lawmakers are set to revamp internet regulations in order to give consumer data more protection.

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Supposing the EU does get its way and forces a change in the law, internet firms will be forced to seek additional permissions from users before they can use their data or sell it to third parties, reports Reuters.

The article explains that lawmakers want to provide consumer data with an additional layer of protection that will limit what companies can do with the data they collect and give private individuals more control over any data they put online.

It’s not a given that the new regulations will come into effect – for now, Reuters is simply reporting that lawmakers are pushing for these changes, but the EU isn’t the only regulatory body to be giving American companies a hard time. In addition to this move, the data protection commissioner of Schleswig-Holstein in Germany is separately pushing Facebook to relent on its own ban on people using fake names to create anonymous accounts, threatening Mark Zuckerberg with a €20,000 fine if he doesn’t agree to this.

A vast amount of data is at stake, such as people’s browsing habits (recorded by cookies), plus all the messages and emails people send, and the photos they upload to sites like Facebook and Google+. In many cases, companies like Google and Facebook will draw on this data to deliver personalized ads for users, and in other cases they may even sell it on to third parties.

Germany’s vocal European Parliament politician Jan Philipp Albrecht is one of the strongest advocates of tougher regulations, stressed to Reuters that users needed to be “informed about what happens with their data,” and they should be given the choice to consciously agree to it being used – or alternatively, the option to say no.

Unsurprisingly, both Google and Facebook have strongly opposed any new regulations. The two firms both claim that such a move would negatively impact businesses and innovation, adding that repercussions could be felt all over the world due to the global nature on the internet.

There may well be a ring of truth in these claims, but neither company mentioned the real reason why they are so opposed to any new regulation. Quite simply, the market for consumer data is enormous, with some of the largest firms in the world generating billions of dollars a year through online revenues – hence they are more than willing to pay good prices for the kind of high quality data that Google and Facebook can provide.

But it’s unlikely they’ll get much sympathy from Europe’s regulators, who seem hell bent on making the EU’s data laws among the most repressive in the world.