Perhaps you watched or listened last week to Mark Zuckerberg being asked about setting up a wifi for grandma and grandpa, I mean answering questions from Senators and Congresspeople about everything Facebook has ever been accused of. It was quite a show from both sides that was a total waste of two days that contained but a handful of nuggets to those paying attention. While nothing was settled about the improper sharing of personal data for some 87 million people by and to Cambridge Analytica.

For those incensed by this scandal, let’s keep in mind that old saying “If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product”. Facebook took in $40 billion last year in advertising based on their superb ability to target users based on demographics, geography, and above all, your history on Facebook. What do you like? How do you interact? Who do you interact with? Facebook analyzes tens of billions of interactions every day, cataloging everything you say or do on the site, to better market to you.

From the 10,000 foot view that makes perfect sense. As a single grandfather, why would I want to see ads about feminine hygiene products or a new dress shop opening in my neighborhood? As someone who visibly leans liberal in my politics online, any advertising promoting conservative candidates or points of view would be a waste of money on me. All of that is great in the abstract. If someone wants to reach an over 50-year-old single man in the Denver metro area with their products or services, great. Here I am.

However, when we zoom in closer and get more personal, I start getting nervous. I think we all do. I don’t want ads targeting me saying 3 hours ago I visited XYZ website and calling me by name when I entered no name on that website. That is creepy and that to me is a violation of my privacy. While the cookies on my computers probably identify exactly who I am, I want to retain some illusion of privacy as long as I can. It’s one of the reasons I have long been an advocate of net neutrality.

GDPR is something adopted by the European Parliament two years ago this April, replacing outdated data protection rules from 1995. Think about how we all used computers back in 1995. Think back to how many of us even had computers back in 1995. The European Union is much more progressive than the United States when it comes to protecting the civil rights of their citizens. For example, anything that is published about you here in the states and is indexed by Google or Bing will be there for time immemorial. By contrast in Europe, the EU put in place “the right to be forgotten” in 2006 which mandates the conditions under which sites like Google must remove certain personal information from websites.

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) states that companies must provide a “reasonable” level of protection for personal data. The data included in the new rules include such things as name, address, ID numbers, IP locations, RFID tags, cookie data, biometric data, sexual orientation, political affiliation, as well as race and ethnic information. The new rules state that companies who maintain a presence or conduct business in the EU alert consumers within 72 hours of a data breach. It took the US credit reporting agency, Equifax, almost three months to alert consumers of their breach exposing the personal information of 143 million Americans just last year. Penalties for non-compliance of GDPR can be as much as 4% of global revenue. (Google took in almost $110 billion in 2017)

Back to Facebook. Since Facebook obviously has a very large presence in Europe, it, of course, must meet the GDPR requirements next month, but only for European residents. Wouldn’t it be great if Facebook offered all of us the same level of personal privacy protection it is being compelled to offer within the European Union? Wouldn’t it be great if all the tech companies considered us as more than just a product, but the actual user too?

Does your company do enough business in Europe to set up GDPR? A lot of larger eyewear companies are based in Europe or do business there. Let us know how the process is going.


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