EU Response to Facebook Data Crisis: New Social Media Group

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By Daniel R. Stoller

European data protection officials are setting up a working group to examine how social media companies collect and use personal data, according to an April 11 announcement.

The move comes as Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg faces U.S. congressional scrutiny for his company’s role in the leak that led to the data of 87 million users being allegedly misused by British political research company Cambridge Analytica. EU leaders have voiced concern over the data privacy incident and called for increased scrutiny of companies like Facebook.

“A multi-billion dollar social media platform saying it is sorry simply is not enough,” Andrea Jelinek, who leads a group of data protection commissioners from EU’s 28 member countries. The data officials, known as the Article 29 Working Party, announced the Social Media Working Group April 11.

“We are at the start of a new era of data protection. The protection of individuals against unlawful use of their personal data on social media platforms will be one of our key priorities,” she said in a statement, as the data protection officials gather to meet in Brussels.

The Social Media Working Group plans to work with an existing EU Facebook Contact Group, which consists of data protection authorities in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain. The Social Media Working Group will look into Facebook and other companies, such as app developers and data brokers, that harvest “personal data from social media for economic or political reasons,” Jelinek said.

Jelinek had previously supported data protection officials working together to investigate Facebook and similar companies that collect and use large amounts of consumer information.

The Article 29 Working Party will be replaced by the European Data Protection Board when the EU’s new data protection law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), takes effect May 25. The Social Media Working Group will continue its work after the GDPR.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel R. Stoller in Washington at dstoller@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Barbara Yuill at byuill@bloomberglaw.com

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