The EU weighs law to stop another Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal

Next year’s European Parliament sessions will see draft legislation aimed at preventing a massive data scandal like we saw this year with Cambridge Analytica

This year has been a bad year for Facebook as it has been hit by scandal after scandal. The biggest of these scandals has been the Cambridge Analytica saga, which saw the private Facebook data of millions of users mined without consent and then used to undermine democracy on both sides of the Atlantic, and across the world.

In a bid to prevent such an event happening again in Europe, the EU is preparing legislation that will target those who would misuse such personal data for a political purpose.

The EU doesn't want to see another data scandal like Cambridge Analytica undermine democracy in Europe
The EU doesn’t want to see another data scandal like Cambridge Analytica undermine democracy in Europe

As the EU is a supra-national organization it doesn’t have the authority to legislate against domestic national parties. This means that the amendment the European Parliament will be seeing next year will be aimed at political groups that reach across Europe. Europe-wide coalitions of national parties will be on the block, and face fines if they misuse private and personal data. For example, if the Far-right Nationalist or Euroskeptic political groups take advantage of data offered by an analyst firm, and it turns out that data has been gathered without consent, then each coalition could face stiff penalties.

The key point of the draft legislation is that it will be targeting data that has been gathered without the explicit consent of the users. It is hoped that this will remove the danger to democracy that big data has proved itself to be in recent times. The legislation will only target a political use of the data, however. This means corporations and other businesses could, theoretically, still use data that has been gathered without user consent. There will still be an incentive for analyst firms to collect the data in the first place.

This move marks the latest in an ongoing campaign against the misuse of data by the EU. If you have an email address, then you’ll no doubt have been overrun recently by a string of emails talking about updated terms and conditions. These were a result of the GDPR legislation that came from the European Parliament.

With the GDPR issue, the EU is a regulatory superpower as it legislates to such a large proportion of internet users. This means it is preferable for internet companies to make the necessary changes for all their customers, rather than just for those living in the jurisdiction of the lawmakers. It was cheaper to comply to GDPR regulations for everybody rather just those living in places where the regulations applied. This won’t be the case for this new draft piece of legislation, but there is every chance that other lawmakers could follow the EU’s example.

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