back to article Social networks have already violated the spirit of GDPR

🎶I am the definition of an Internet Monopoly, I Hoover up your data then I model its topology, I influence your buying and your vote with my psychology, And if you ever twig, you’ll get my insincere apology!🎵 — Christopher Biggs (@unixbigot) April 27, 2018 Every morning in recent weeks and for a …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "All in the name of safety"

    And that is the crux of the entire issue.

    Not to remind everyone of that famous saying about exchanging liberty for safety, but that's exactly where we have ended up.

    What I wonder is what is it going to take to put that genie back into the bottle and will we as a species have the balls to get it done ?

    1. Mark 85

      Re: "All in the name of safety"

      Not to remind everyone of that famous saying about exchanging liberty for safety, but that's exactly where we have ended up.

      There's some question about this... was the liberty given up willingly or subversively? And what is the safety we get in return? I see our liberties being stripped but no real "safety" in return. The only ones that benefit are those in power, be it government, advertisers, data hawkers... the Zucks of the world.

      Some say we have choices but the reality is that those days may be long gone. FB sucks up even non-members info whenever possible. Google, et al, do the same. It's very possible that the genie can't go back in the bottle as he/she has gorged themselves to point that they're too large, too secretive to return to it.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next-gen to the rescue

    As I said to my 20-something nephew a while back, it will be his generation that has to sort out these "social media" misnomer corporates. We, by which I mean most non-millennials, do not yet understand the problem that they have created, and I would include in that those who know there is a problem. The issue is so big, we can't grasp it. It will take not just technologists and economists to get a grip of the trend, but also psychologists and most importantly, philosophers. This will take 20-40 years.

    And while we expect a tl;dr simple paragraph to explain the problem, we will be perpetuating it.

    Help us, oh millennials, you're our only hope.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Next-gen to the rescue

      "We, by which I mean most non-millennials, do not yet understand the problem that they have created"

      We do, however, realise there's a problem. The Facebook generation, maybe don't so it's we who have to do the heavy lifting here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Next-gen to the rescue

        who are the facebook generation? i use it and i'm not a millenial.

        every person i know uses it and they're not millenials either. who is this nebulous group of people that dont understand the stuff we claim to understand (and speak self righteously on their behalf)?

        1. Fungus Bob

          Re: Next-gen to the rescue

          If you use Facebook, then *you* are the Facebook generation...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Next-gen to the rescue

      ..and I am not only the generation that created it, I worked in roles that helped set it up since 1969 through 1999! But I am here as an economist, and at this moment an economic historian/sociologist. Not a very good one, perhaps. But then who can call themselves a good system analyst or system engineer these days? Keep that question for another day.

      This issue here is philosophical at an 'in your face level', so don't switch off on me. First examine your own... Why do human beings work together, live together and cooperate? Is it because it:

      a) enables the strong guys amongst us to create a set of rules that say " We own everything but, if you give us a bit of every shred of value that you can create from it, we'll let you work with it. In return for that access, while you create that value, we'll give you access to the stuff you need to live on from the bits of value that we took from other guys before you. And while your doing that, we'll get you to want more than you need and get others to make it, on the same deal. You can have that stuff too if you agree to let us have a bigger slice out of the value you are creating with the stuff I have given you access to work on, and some more too, of the value you are making, to replace the value you took.

      or, b). enables us to more effectively and efficiently add value, to the basic stuff that is in the world, so that it is turned into the things that make life possible, safer, more comfortable, more pleasant and more fulfilling by getting what we each need and a lot of what we want, individually, but also enables to build up, and maintain enduring , durable and resilient shared assets and service delivery infrastructures which we share and that make all of our lives better so that we are less and less enslaved to the making of value and more of our own efforts can go into using and consuming the value we produce in the 'spare' time we have created for ourselves?

      If is a) stop reading here. I pray that you and your kind become infertile, are denied any child rearing access opportunities and join the dinosaurs.

      If b) then consider how in a 'free market' utopia goods with high demand because they are needed, as distinct from 'wanted', get produced in great quantity, and command a premium price, until demand is met. But for them, enough is enough. More production doesn't create more demand.. even if the price drops. So the price does drop, as suppliers compete for sales. Until production no longer produces any excess value to be extracted from the people working at it by the people renting out the access to the stuff to those that are producing it, The value portion that the 'owners' were taking for their own benefit from the producer's created value has been sacrificed in the price war to keep access to the 'inelastic' market demand, Sorry for the technical term. So now the 'owners' all want to sell up and own some stuff and have people create value where their product's demand is much more than the supply and which is potentially permanently elastic... in the area of products and services which fulfill insatiable 'wants' rather than utilitarian 'needs'. But we guys still need our milk, toast and tea to get going very day.. Whatever the 'owners' of the stuff that makes it want.

      We. the society, now have two choices... do without the basic products and services of life (generalising here... to save time) or make production of basic 'need' goods a 'public enterprise' with no market driven profit opportunity but totally assured stable product demand.. job for life for those making them. And 'profit for jam' for those still owning the stuff need to produce them with, if it is a 'public-private' partnership or simply subsidised by taking value, by taxation, from the 'wants production' economy (through corporation tax) or from other not so exploited producer's work value (through income tax). This enables the 'owners' to own more stuff as well as live nicely off the income they themselves are not earning, all the while applying some subsidy to expanding the amount of stuff they own. This creates competition, with other 'owners' in the same game, for owning access to the planet's resources whose 'values' then increase. This increases the 'ground rent' component that determines the subsidy that the owner's take from the previously mentioned non-needs producers or from less impoverished producers working at making value from the stuff that is all owned.

      This creates a public pressure, upon agents of governance (politicians), in societies where people are free to express their dissatisfactions, for 'something to be done' that both assures continued flow of the products or services that they 'need' in their lives and does so at minimum cost to those consuming them. If the use of the 'goods' involves access to a physically shared 'property' ('stuff') then the 'cheapest' societal option is to take the 'property stuff' needed by production out of the market and pay the producers for producing from revenue, at a 'value share' level that attracts the people needed to produce the product needed by society. In the end this means administered 'total-cost-recovery' pricing which is eternally sustainable and accept the managerial and strategic planning it involves. (Why not? does it matter that 'owners' aren't doing it, when it is done by people whose actual job .. and future employability depends upon it.. through external certification.). Or else, take all subsidy costs from other 'owners' rather than from 'producers'.

      The 'cheapest' solution for 'owners' is to carry on with producer-sourced subsidies and escalating property prices to constantly escalate ground rents and the subsidies. The secure asset base created in this area then lets the 'owners' to borrow on this growing 'store of value' so that they can still invest in owning stuff that is needed by producers of those 'wanted' goods where excess demand can be manipulated and as extractable value as can be generated can be extracted from produced value,

      So what of social media and the internet communication network it rides upon?

      The internet network infrastructure has already gone far down the same evolutionary route as road, rail, electric, gas, radio, TV, cellular and garbage collection. Governments now subsidise or own the production of these needed goods which require shared access to their delivery systems. And thy control them.

      The style of communication services (mixed one-to-many, many-to-one and many-to-many) created by the social media products fulfil a basis human need to communicate, in a style with which is totally analogous to that which occurs face-to-face (hence face-book for instance). It is a 'needed product. If total inter-operability between providers were introduced, just as it was for rail operators in late 19thC-early 20thC UK and elsewhere, it would facilitate the competition that would drive-down its 'basic-service' delivered price to the user close to its actual cost of production and the cost of advertising down to its cost of delivery. The opportunity for restricting supply ('face' space and market access) would be eliminated and its value (by effectively limiting data-scope to more local operational domains) would also be reduced. Production of social media would then follow the same economic evolution as all other 'social utilities' until they too will be the object of various subsidisation schemes. And the data they hold about us being of less value will also be less and more easily monitored, and policed, for local GDPR compliance.

      This would benefit advertisers serving their products into more local markets. Markets that are a better fit to the data available to each of the 'social media' product providers. It would benefit 'work-value retention' within regional areas and countries and reduce the demand for importation of 'want-manipulated' foreign products and brands and people will still be able to chat and communicate with everyone else in the world.... freely.

      So.. Step One can be taken by we the creators of this Gorgon. Simply require that

      1). all social media traffic entering a country be delivered and transmitted by locally registered companies and people who are locally tax-domiciled and permanently resident...

      2). all social media traffic and content meets a single, universal standard of complete interoperability


      The economics beloved of those that benefit from it will do the rest for us. Meanwhile we can get on with the job of democratising production through localised markets and localised value attribution... as the globalisation scourge begins to realise that it has seen its nemesis.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The test of GDPR will come

    when the likes of FB, Google, MS etc are taken to court for GDPR violations.

    IMHO, simply moving the domain where your data supposedly resides to somewhere outside of Europe is not enough to 'get around' the GDPR.

    I'll watch with interest as these data slurpers get their comeuppance (hopefully).

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The test of GDPR will come

      "IMHO, simply moving the domain where your data supposedly resides to somewhere outside of Europe is not enough to 'get around' the GDPR."

      Close. GDPR, by design, makes it irrelevant where the data is. It's where the data subject is that matters.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: The test of GDPR will come

      Moving it outside the EU will only help protect the companies against complaints from non-EU citizens.

      GDPR promises the same level of protection applies, wherever the data is stored - and woe be the cloud company that tries to store the data in a country without equivalent levels of DP to the EU...

  4. Ole Juul

    you can't win that game

    But you can mostly avoid playing it.

  5. Adam 52 Silver badge

    If I understand correctly this article is arguing for genuine academic researchers to be given access to Facebook data. Like Dr Kogan?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "researchers to be given access to Facebook data. Like Dr Kogan?"

      Exactly. It looks many are more worried about the impact on their own business than the "transparency" of data - which actually should not be available to dogs&pigs anyway - even behind the screen of "academic researches".

      Data sharing is as dangerous as data collection - because you don't know in what hands they end, and what they are used for.

      Data collection and use must be audited - but not to use the same data for personal advantage.

      The problem with Facebook is the huge quantity of data it collects, and GDPR aims at making data collection and management far more transparent - for the citizens, not third parties looking to earn from it.

      It can't forbid users to let their data collected without a good reason, if they are so stupid to allow it. Thereby yes, FB & C. already sit on a huge trove of data, unluckily. It's like pollution, you can put new rules, but the damage done takes years to heal. Still, it's no longer an unregulated land.

      And of course FB & C. will try to be "compliant" while eluding the rules - just like they do with taxes and other rules, so really nothing new. It will be up to to the agencies tasked to ensure GDPR really work to control them and avoid to be deceived.

      Any written rule doesn't magically work like a spell. It requires people to make it work. Expect a lot of lobbying to place accommodating people in those places...

      1. Mark 85

        Re: "researchers to be given access to Facebook data. Like Dr Kogan?"

        There's the same problem with credit agencies like the Equifax hack. A large target that was breeched and now we're all in peril. It'll depend on the degree of watchfulness we have to have over our finances, etc. and the cleverness of the miscreants who use it. Laws are fine, implementation is tough. I hope the GDPR helps close some backdoors, etc. to the miscreants and if sites holding less data means less hacks and attacks, then that will be good.

  6. Wolfclaw

    I wuld love to see a EU law using GDPR to force all companies to wipe out all existing data and then get 100% solid consent from users before they start mining data again, that will screw their bottom dollars, but it will never happen. Too much palm greasing going on in politics !

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I wuld love to see a EU law using GDPR"

      "A EU law using GDPR"? That's meaningless. GDPR is an EU law.

      "to force all companies to wipe out all existing data"

      It does that in that it gives you the right to be forgotten. You can go to any corporation and demand (within limits) that they delete any information about you. There are limits. These include any information which is held by statute so if you're the director of a business you can't tell Companies House to forget you. They also include information necessary for performance of a contract so if something was sold to you with a maintenance contract* you can't tell the vendor to forget you without giving up the contract.

      "Too much palm greasing going on in politics"

      It's out of the hands of politics now: it's primarily in your hands with the regulators watching your back. And recent news suggests that in the UK the regulator will be very keen to do just that.

      *However I don't see that registering something for guarantee entitles passing on the data to someone trying to flog maintenance contracts. If Homeserve try once more....

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        I don't see that registering something for guarantee entitles passing on the data to someone trying to flog maintenance contracts

        Or, as happened to me only last week, a simple email enquiry to a manufacturer about a power supply now has me subscribed to their mailing list.

        Or, as happened to my wife only the week before, school rings up "we're just checking your emergency contact details and don't seem to have your email address or mobile number."

        Bearing in mind that not six months ago we had a bit of a barney with the school for passing on our mobile numbers and email addresses to a third party, who then sent us emails and texts pestering us to download their contact app (no, we're quite happy for you to continue sending paper letters home), it wasn't much of a surprise (but it was the cause of much anger) that within five minutes of putting the telephone down, a text arrived from that same third-party company, once again asking us to download their app, and an email arrived encouraging us to "click here to confirm your subscription".

        Not only that, but despite not downloading the app (my wife has a "dumb" phone), and not "clicking here", emails continue to arrive from the school via this third-party.

        These people just don't get it, and while you might contend that school secretarial staff (other, usually, than one omniscient person) are never the brightest, I see the same attitude time and time again.

        I can't see it happening, but I look forward to hearing on the ten o'clock news about the first prosecutions for this sort of thing, come June.


  7. Wiltshire

    What's that smell?

    Oh, it's just The Register. Or VultureCentral to give it it's Facebook name.

    I'll believe The Register's sincerity on this issue when they are no longer on Facebook.

    1. Spacedinvader


      The Reg is a person giving out personal info?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh for gods sake grow up, Facebook is an advertising platform so you expect new orgainisations like El Reg NOT to use it? Get a grip.

      1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

        Facebook is an advertising platform so you expect new orgainisations like El Reg NOT to use it?

        And THAT is the biggest part of the problem. FarceBork have become so ubiquitous that there's an element of "screwed if you do and screwed if you don't" about using it. For many people these days, "the internet" == ("facebook" OR "google") - if it isn't on farcebork or the first page of google's results then it doesn't exist.

        So because "everyone is one farcebook", most people are pressured into being on farcebork or they'll miss out. There's a reason that they buy things like WhatsApp which allow people to communicate without using farcebork - by buying it, they bring it into their data mining business and so it doesn't matter which people use, farcebork still get your networking information.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    "transparency is the only real safety"

    Erm... no...

    Anonymity is the ONLY real safety !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "transparency is the only real safety"

      The problem with anonymity is it empowers abusers and doesn't protect the vulnerable.

      I've ticked the anon box for this so that could empower me to call you an ******* ****** but I'm too grown up for that :D

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Say Zuk was a Serial Killer, how many dead bodies would there be by now?

    Governments have lost all power. Watch them struggle to send in some Regulators to check-up on data compliance. That worked so well with Banksters! America clearly hasn't gotten the message either. Is the world saturated with fools addicted to sharing, or have they been seduced by a Serial Sociopath and trained-liar like Zuk. Is his house run like Facebook, a giant 'personal Cult', with him enshrined as a God. He probably apologizes to them everyday too, meanwhile hiding all the bodies of his latest victims!

  10. Norman Nescio Silver badge


    One problem with all of this is that the average person (including me) does not understand all of the possible consequences of sharing data with a third party. The requirement to gain active consent from you to share your data is good, but if you are not fully cognizant of the consequences of doing so, then you are making the decision in the absence of knowledge - which is often called gambling.

    Someone wanting your data is likely to offer all sorts of shiny trinkets in exchange, the value of which will be less than the value of your information (there is no such thing as a free lunch). That value is often either invisible to, or unobtainable for, the data subject. It is in the data aggregator's interest to encourage ignorance of what value they can derive from your data, all the while distracting you with ephemera and frippery. In that sort of environment, 'consent' is meaningless. Having the right to be forgotten is all very well, but if, for all practical purposes, it cuts you off from your social network, then few other than the most needy cases will use that right.

    I suspect the GDPR will have a few high profile 'kills', and end up having far less effect that the doomsayers predict, as the data aggregators will have some very well paid clever people working on how to operate in the new environment: and the experts they employ will definitely be more adept at juggling within the regulations than the average user will be at comprehending the regulations and the consequences of their own actions. It is an unequal contest, and the GDPR has by no means levelled the playing field - it has simply banned some of the most egregious violations of the social contract.

    1. BoldMan

      Re: Consequences

      THIS x 100

  11. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    We need to start a book on...

    We El Reg readers need to start a book on who the first to be prosecuted under GDPR will be, and how much the fine will be. The winner gets the pot. From what I have seen over the last weeks, my bet is that it will be an aggregation site similar to Jobserve or Monster or similar, or a recruitment agency.

    All you need to do is sign up at my totally legit gambling portal. You don't read the small print because you wouldn't understand it. Ok? Ok.

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: We need to start a book on...

      "Jobserve or Monster" jayzus,... I took VR three years ago,... job searched for a few months, and I'm still getting emails from those guys, despite not having visited the sites since 2015. You'd have thought they'd take the hint, I'm not job shopping at the moment, so stop with the emails,.... but no. Still inbox rules come in handy to file that stuff away.

  12. codejunky Silver badge


    "GDPR is also the reason for all those emails you’re getting of late, because many data-hungry businesses have been caught on the wrong side of it."

    No not really. To use services I have already chosen to sign up to personally I must now again agree to each of these services that I the customer do actually want them to provide me the service I signed up for. Do I feel better about this? No because if I dont agree again to these services I want they will be obligated to delete my account and I will have to sign up again.

    The wrong side of a new law designed to put people on the wrong side of it is more accurate regardless of if you agree with GDPR.

    1. israel_hands

      Re: Erm

      You've misunderstood something there, CodeJunky. The services you access are required to gain affirmative assent that you agree to them storing/sharing your data. IF you ignore the requests they've got to turn the data hose off.

      But GDPR also specifically forbids them from tying data-sharing in with service provision (except where the data is absolutely required for the service). This means you'll retain your access to the service regardless of whether you do anything with the begging e-mails they're sending asking you agree to their slurp.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Erm

        @ israel_hands

        "But GDPR also specifically forbids them from tying data-sharing in with service provision (except where the data is absolutely required for the service)."

        For the industry I work in we must store certain details purely to send on to 3rd parties to place the order. Simply if I want to use those services I must agree to the GDPR terms to get that service I want. I know I want that service because I signed up to it and I need to provide those details to be passed on to get what I want. It isnt slurping its legitimate transaction that does not proceed at all without accepting the terms.

        If I dont agree then my account details will be removed as part of not storing data I did not explicitly allow them to store.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    data privacy for dummies

    The way I like to think of facebook data privacy is as follows...

    Imagine someone gives you a glass of normal tap water to drink but in a funky glass, really cool and makes your friends all want the same glass. Unfortunately, using single atoms as letters, written under a fold in a crack in the base of the glass are the T&Cs that signify consent to the service that I sell of kicking the water drinkers (or "winkers" aka "the client") in the balls with size 14 steel toe-capped builders boots. For a princely fee, I reserve the right to "outsource" such a task to my "tranquil hugging user gatherings" (or "thug(s)" aka "network of affiliates") at a time and place of my choosing.

    You can keep using the really cool and funky glass as long as I keep getting to sell my service of kicking your gonads into the 18th century to random strangers... sound like a fair deal?

    Now a regulation comes along that says that I have to tell you that you "may" or "will" end up with a kick in the gonads in exchange for my glass, how unfair is that!

    The question really is, why does gonads sound like it should be hyphenated?

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

      Re: data privacy for dummies

      Or just find a new glass? All they really do is hold water. To be honest, any leak proof container will do.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The easy way to spoil social media data collection.

    There is very easy and effective way to kill the effectiveness of data collection and that is give them false data. In the early days of the internet the general advice was never give a website any information they don't need and if they insisted give them garbage/ fake information.

    This may have completely changed now but it is still possible to throw off their data slurping.

    According to Facebook I just turned 108 I live in a city that doesn't exist and it's advertising targeting says I love music(I hate music)

    If everyone started giving Facebook nonsense information they would soon change their attitude or die off, the latter would be preferable as social and internet should never have been mixed in the first place.

  15. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Let's them do try that

    Seeing how GDPR is worded and how european juries will judge according the spirit of the law, FB will have a hard time in Europe. It will take years and many legal battles, but in the end FB will be (hopefully) screwed. Adding to that the latest display of "unilationism" of the US administration, Europe has no reason not to be harsh with US companies that do not respect european laws.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like