GDPR: social media`s long overdue EU wakeup call

 Aigerim Berzinya
  May 30, 2018

On May 25th the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect, this directive replaces a 1995 Data Protection Directive.

Yes, that’s correct, twenty-three years. Meaning that the legislation in place that is referred to in an effort to protect your online data privacy and security was drawn up before Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Grindr, Tinder, and every other social media outlet out there vying for your personal information.

WhatsApp has in fact just raised its minimum age to sixteen ahead of the introduction of this regulation.

Changes are afoot.

This reform is set to have a major impact on our online privacy and security, transforming the way our personal information is gathered and used. It has been created to give all internet users in the EU more control over their own data, and to encourage businesses / organizations to take a more ethical approach when using this information.

A key area of interest surrounding the GDPR centers around its impact on social media. There has been much controversy recently over the privacy and security of Facebook users’ data. Much of it concentrated on the role Facebook played in enshrining Donald Trump as POTUS.

Mark Zuckerberg has taken responsibility for Facebook’s ‘mistakes’, and is apparently not firing any employees over this data breach. Kudos to Zuckerberg. It is not often we see such a powerful, wealthy individual back his staff and team. No scapegoats here. Yet!

The entire concept of a data breach and the unethical gathering of users’ information is complex and troubling. Yet, despite these concerns, the billions of people using Facebook and other social networks on a daily basis are unlikely to jump ship. Social media is simply embedded too deeply in to modern life.

However, when these new EU regulations come into play on May 25th future data breaches within the EU could result in Facebook and other social networks facing fines of up to €20 million or the equivalent of four percent of their annual turnover.

Even to global corporations this is a lot of cash, but the future damage to their reputations if they do not start respecting their users’ privacy and data security cannot be measured. This Facebook breach has affected millions but luckily for Facebook people do not fully understand or fully accept the magnitude of this breach and what it represents.

Transparency in consent

Consent forms become the norm following the GDPR’s launch.

The GDPR is considered the most crucial (and frankly overdue!) alteration to data privacy and online security since the EU last established their rules back in 1995. (Still shocked!)

Companies looking to process and control users’ data have required providing them with clear terms on what they are agreeing to before supplying their information.

Information that appears to be deliberately designed to confuse through complex jargon will not be tolerated.

As a result, users in the EU should be able to take a look at the terms and conditions related to a consent form, understand exactly what they’re granting permission to, and be able to withdraw said permission just as easily. As data controllers, social media companies must take a responsible, ethical stance on how they use personal details.

The GDPR will also change the way in which brands can advertise on social media. For example, Facebook’s Custom Audiences feature allows companies to target customers already on their database, to ensure that their products / services are being presented to the people most likely to take an interest. Not anymore.

Businesses will now be responsible for ensuring data is used ethically with the Custom Audiences feature, not Facebook.

Any users who do not give their consent to be targeted will be removed from the Custom Audiences database automatically. Companies adding a Facebook Pixel to their sites to gather data will need to provide users with a consent form, addressing what information is being collected, why, and for what purpose.

Location tracking

Location tracking, using GPS technology will also be regulated differently once the GDPR comes into effect as it is classed as the overall ‘personal data’ package. Certain apps and tools – Uber, fitness-based apps etc. – use location for very obvious reasons.

However, in the case of social media networks, the need to track your location can be less obvious.

Businesses and organizations drawing on their users’ location data will have to be honest and upfront about why they are collecting this information and to what end.

No longer will consent forms present the all confusing pre-ticked acceptance box. All details relating to the need for location tracking will have to be more readable and transparent than in the past.

As of May 25th, EU residents are no longer in the dark.

In the past, did you ever truly know what a social network was doing with your information – photos, likes, interests? Probably not.

While the GDPR is of course euro centric it is hoped that its effect will be felt across the globe and that people will start to demand more control over their online data. People need to understand why and how they are being bombarded with online marketing. It is unacceptable that this could be a result of their choosing a certain type of GPS tracker, location sharing tech or bookmarking etc.

People deserve to feel secure in their online choices.

The introduction of the GDPR will hopefully usher in a new, brighter age of enhanced security and respect for consumers. No longer will their online information be seen as ‘fair game’. Consent forms on social media will and should become as ubiquitous as the cookie consent when browsing websites.

Finally, let’s all know and accept that the changes this legislation will bring in will most definitely take some getting used to, but the effort will be so worth it.

All of us depend on social media and it has become an invaluable tool to businesses of all sizes. It builds and maintains customer relationships, targets new prospects and helps businesses to develop a clearer understanding of their audience. The GDPR will affect this and will effect change.

Businesses and brands will have to maintain a transparent relationship with their customers, clients, users.

Personal data is exactly what it says, ‘personal’. It is not fodder for social media companies. It is mine, it is yours it is deserving of respect, and together and with the GDPR a new age of security and respect online and especially on social media is achievable.

GDPR: social media`s long overdue EU wakeup call

Aigerim Berzinya

Aigerim Berzinya is the Marketing Director at Turtler GPS Ltd. and as the company's globetrotting backpacker uses the app and SHELL device while hiking abroad or in the mountains to stay connected and safe.

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