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EU warns adtech giants over ‘legal tricks’ as it moots changes to centralize privacy oversight

The European Commission has given its clearest signal yet that it’s prepared to intervene over weak enforcement of the EU’s data protection rules against big tech.

Today the bloc’s executive also had a warning for adtech giants Google and Facebook — accusing them of choosing “legal tricks” over true compliance with the EU’s standard of “privacy by design” — and emphasizing the imperative for them to take data protection “seriously”.

Speaking at a privacy conference this morning, Vera Jourová, the EU’s commissioner for values and transparency, said enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) at a national level must buck up — and become “effective” — or else it “will have to change”, warning specifying that any “potential changes” will move toward centralized enforcement.

“When I was looking at existing enforcement decisions and pending cases, I also came to another conclusion,” she also said.  “So, we have penalties or decisions against Google, Facebook, WhatsApp.

“To me this means that clearly there is a problem with compliance culture among those companies that live off our personal data. Despite the fact that they have the best legal teams, presence in Brussels and spent countless hours discussing with us the GDPR. Sadly, I fear this is not privacy by design.

“I think it is high time for those companies to take protection of personal data seriously. I want to see full compliance, not legal tricks. It’s time not to hide behind small print, but tackle the challenges head on.”

In parallel, an influential advisor to the bloc’s top court has today published an opinion which states that EU law does not preclude consumer protection agencies from bringing representative actions at a national level — following a referral by a German court in a case against Facebook Ireland — which, if the CJEU’s judges agree, could open up a fresh wave of challenges to tech giants’ misuse of people’s data without the need to funnel complaints through the single point of failure of gatekeeper regulators like Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC).


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