Facebook: The latest court case shows how Europe is cracking down on large technology companies


Author Renaud Foucart, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Lancaster University School of Management.Originally published on dialogue

Facebook’s handling of user data has just been processed Major blow From the European Court of Justice (ECJ).In answer to the question of the German Supreme Court, the European Court of Justice’s Attorney General – his opinion is not binding, but binding Generally follow By the courts-the necessary clarifications of European data protection laws were made to confirm that consumer associations can initiate litigation on behalf of individuals.

If the European Court of Justice follows closely, this will allow people to defend their rights from the tech giants in the future.Come to the back Decide A few weeks ago, the European General Court sued Google for using its platform power to restrict competitors. This is the latest example of a colder business environment for companies that control our data by European regulators—in stark contrast to the United States.

Facebook and consent

The current case is about Facebook (now called Meta) in its early years to encourage users to take quizzes and games (such as FarmVille) before sharing the results with all their friends.in a Action taken The German Federation of Consumer Organizations (VZBV) first heard it in 2014 and claimed that Facebook’s data protection notice did indeed Do not explain clearly How users share their data. It hopes to prohibit the company from using similar consent forms in the future.

VZBV won the original case and the appeal, before Hear The German Supreme Court in May 2020.The judges agreed that Facebook misled users with the notice, but solicit opinions The argument from the European Court of Justice regarding Facebook is that only individuals, not consumer organizations, can file complaints under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governing this field.

Before the European Court of Justice makes its final decision in 2022, the attorney general’s recommendations reflect the fact that individuals generally do not initiate legal proceedings against large companies for minor breaches of technical regulations. It is the job of consumer organizations to sue big companies on behalf of society, so if this is not allowed, it will limit people’s protection.

Facebook’s attitude towards games is not the only question about how it obtains user consent for data.it Send famously When users join a social network, send unsolicited emails to their contacts. It also places a “Like” button on third-party websites and collects data without the user’s consent.

European national regulatory agencies ruled that these practices are illegal, but they are always long after the fact.When Facebook is ordered Pay 100,000 euros For example, the German regulator was fined (£85,138) for sending unsolicited emails in 2016, and it is obviously too late to influence the company’s behavior on this personal issue.

Since the early 2010s, VZBV has been at the forefront of the struggle to make tech giants accountable for customer data, although not always successful.it Failed attempt Prevent Facebook from claiming that its platform is “free and will always be free” while allowing users to pay for their private data.It also cannot ask the company to allow users Use a pseudonym. Facebook has always refused to use security issues as excuses, but perhaps also because of consumer-identifiable data More valuable Than anonymous.

GDPR and future regulations

As Facebook and other social media companies continue to develop new technologies, Collect consumer dataIn 2018, the European Union adopted GDPR as the overall framework for clarifying the rules. It allows users to have more control and rights over their own data, requiring explicit consent to use it.

Before making a decision on consumer organizations, the European Court of Justice has Recently decided National privacy regulators can directly fine technology companies in accordance with the GDPR in response to violations that affect their citizens. Facebook claims that only the Irish authorities have the ability, because its European Union headquarters are there.An upcoming European Court of Justice Consideration will be given to granting similar powers to antitrust agencies.

The EU has also formulated rules for large technology companies It needs to be strengthened In 2022 with Digital Service Act with Digital Market ActThis additional set of restrictions will include curbing the uncontrolled spread of unverified and often hateful content, and may be fined 10% of the company’s annual revenue.

And for All the conversation The bonfire of EU data protection rules after Brexit, the upcoming UK Online Security Act Can be said to go further Moving in the same direction will not only face similar fines, but executives may be sentenced to jail for violations.The bill may Even make Facebook is responsible for the fraudulent activities of other companies advertising on the platform.

Major EU countries such as Germany, France, and the Netherlands Still want The Digital Services Act prevents the main strategy of large technology companies from attracting new users: identifying non-profit but successful Internet companies and purchasing their technology and user base.The UK is now decisively on the same path because the Competition and Market Authority Just ordered Facebook/Meta sells Giphy, the largest GIF library on the Internet It bought It will cost 400 million U.S. dollars (301 million pounds) in 2020.

Therefore, European regulators are unraveling a decision on the business model of the tech giants After the other. European data regulation is also becoming de facto Global standardBecause it is allowed to operate in Europe (this will produce Quarter Facebook’s annual profit), global technology generally must fully comply with stricter European rules.

The European logic is that collecting private data is usually plagiarism.People care about privacy, but deliver There is almost no exchange of their data, and the government should protect them.U.S. regulators consider this to be a patronage, and the Supreme Court ruled nearly 20 years ago Dominant company Can freely exploit its consumers.The recent whistleblower Francis Haogen has caused some introspection in the United States, but may Finally struggling To ensure meaningful changes to data and content rules.

With the United Kingdom and other countries now strongly following the path of the European Union, the United States has become increasingly isolated in this area. Meta is still free to make money from existing Facebook users in Europe.But as young generation Leaving Facebook and turning to companies like TikTok and Snapchat, it faces increasing difficulties in reaching them and collecting the necessary information to sell their personal data to advertisers. Therefore, it may be time for companies like Facebook to find new sources of revenue.



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