#1 Focus on Social Networks

Photo: Flickr/ Julian Flores

Photo: Flickr/ Julian Flores

Social networking is everywhere and our personal data as well. Nowadays, everybody is connected, needs to stay in touch and social networks are useful tools to do so.

Indeed, we can share pictures, videos, even feelings and wishes. But at what price?

One day, an Austrian law student made an experiment. He requested all the information that Facebook kept about him on his profile. Facebook sent him 1,224 pages of information including photos, messages and postings from his page dating back several years; some of which he thought he had deleted.

He realised that the site was collecting much more information about him than he thought -information he had deleted. The networking site had no need for this information but it was still being stored.

If all of you tried this same experiment, I am convinced that the results will be the same. Probably because you have consented in article 234 of the general conditions written in font size 6!! But despite this you have agreed.

To avoid abuses and enable users to operate in security and knowingly, provisions have been taken – at the national and European level – to frame strictly the field of data protection under social networks.

The key text in Europe is the directive 95/46/CE adopted by the EP and the Council on the 24th October of 1995. They tried to strike a balance between the right to privacy and the principle of free movement of personal data.

To do so, the directive settles strict rules to data gathering and asks for the creation of an independent body in each member state in charge of the protection of personal data.

Generally speaking, the European Commission proposal, aimed at strengthening the right to be forgotten, to implement concretely the principle of “privacy by default” and to ensure the information clarity as well as the explicit agreement.

Why this is good for the digital environment?

In the era of new technologies, personal data have to face an advancement of data flows, a growth of cloud computing and therefore a risk of people losing control of their online data.

To prevent this risk, the new rules implemented at the European level will put the people in control of their personal data and will foster trust both in social media and in online shopping and communication in general.

In 2011, a study showed that just over a quarter of social network users (26%) and even fewer online shoppers (18%) feel in complete control of their data. From an economic point of view, this lack of confidence may affect the economic growth; considering that privacy concerns are among the top reasons for people not buying goods and services online.

With the technology sector directly contributing to 20% of overall productivity growth in Europe and 40% of overall investment aimed at the sector, individual trust in online services seems to be vital for stimulating economic growth in the EU.

In January 2012 the first draft of the General Data Protection Regulation was released by the Commission. According to the European social network regarding the proposed EU protection data regulation, “despite the positive site of those changes we would like to note that in the case of absent international agreements, the enforcement of those provisions under new Regulation may cause problems.”

In theory, the regulation is meant to facilitate legal harmonization and greater certainty for data controllers and processers, but in practise, in the field of new technology, the implementation of technical rules seems hard to apply and mostly to control.

by Lara Kontoratchi

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