GDPR: Irish Data Protection Commission may show where the WWW is heading

The Irish Data Protection Commission’s (DPC) annual report makes interesting reading, given that the World Wide Web is celebrating its 30th birthday this month.

People regularly give away vast amounts of personal data through social media and instant messaging platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter.

These web giants need to comply with GDPR. But in its annual report, the DPC said it has 15 statutory inquiries open in relation to multinational technology companies compliance with GDPR.

The firms investigated are: Apple, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and WhatsApp.

For Apple, the DPC said it is examining whether the company has discharged its GDPR transparency obligations in respect of the information contained in its privacy policy and online documents regarding the processing of personal data of users of its services.

As for Facebook, the DPC said it  is conducting several investigations on the social media platform’s compliance with GDPR. In relation to a token breach that occurred in September 2018, the DPC said it was looking at whether Facebook Ireland has discharged its GDPR obligations to implement organisational and technical measures to secure and safeguard the personal data of its users. The DPC said it was also looking into at Facebook GDPR’s breach notification obligations.

Facebook LinkedIn, WhatsApp and Twitter are all being investigated in relation to how they process personal data.

GDPR and advanced analytics

The wording in the annual report concerning the  LinkedIn  inquiry is particularly intriguing. In the report the DPC states it is: “Examining whether LinkedIn has discharged its GDPR obligations in respect of the lawful basis on which it relies to process personal data in the context of behavioural analysis and targeted advertising on its platform.”

The fact that the DPC is looking at LinkedIn’s use of behavioural analysis is certainly very interesting. The web giants rely on understanding their users better than they know themselves. This level of AI-enabled advanced analytics and machine learning is now available to more and more organisations, not just the multinational tech companies the DPC is investigating.

The outputs from the DPC’s investigations will very likely influence heavily the way organisations use advanced analytics on web data that can identify individuals.

Ultimately, it may even influence how the WWW evolves and whether today’s web giants as well as those in the making, will be able to sustain business models that see them through for the next 30 years.

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