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GDPR: Will it stop data trafficking?
The L Word

GDPR: Will it stop data trafficking?

by Sarita Rao 3 min. 28.04.2018 From our online archive
If anyone collects information on you and sells it without your knowledge, you should be told who the culprits are and allowed to throw rotten tomatoes at them, writes Sarita Rao
Whilst data trafficking is less virulent in Luxembourg than other parts of the world, you can bet your name, email address and mobile number it will be coming to a website near you very soon Photo: Shutterstock
Whilst data trafficking is less virulent in Luxembourg than other parts of the world, you can bet your name, email address and mobile number it will be coming to a website near you very soon Photo: Shutterstock

If anyone collects information on you and sells it without your knowledge, you should be told who the culprits are and allowed to throw rotten tomatoes at them, writes Sarita Rao

I've just had a message from Facebook asking me to accept new data-protection rules that include agreeing to checks on my photos. Apparently, it's for my own good to stop people misusing my pictures, but I am dubious about this.

Various wealth managers have been trying to Link-In with me using a level of persistency that borders on harassment. I regularly receive messages saying they've seen my LinkedIn profile and they'd like to talk. They clearly think being located in Luxembourg equals being rich. In reality, I'm fairly certain I can manage my own distinct lack of wealth quite well by myself, unless they're prepared to help me compare the price of barbecues at Hornbach and Bauhaus.

Misguided reselling of your details

Possibly worse than unsolicited LinkedIn messages, my mother regularly receives calls from those sordid companies that try to make personal injury claims on your behalf. You know the sort – "no win, no fee". Seven years ago, someone bumped my car, and I made a claim. No one was actually in the car, but my mother, who has the same initials as me, still gets calls about "her accident".

The real issue is not that we are being constantly harassed online, by mail,or by telephone. It's that companies we trust are collecting data on us and selling it for marketing purposes. In fact, some companies are making a nice juicy revenue stream from repackaging our data.

Our location is being read by websites coupled with cookies from online pages we've visited previously, and used to target advertising at us. Even social media feeds are being misused by companies seeking to influence our political opinions.

Money-making scammers

The new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) comes into force in Europe in May. Apparently, companies have to be ready or face big fines. But just how many companies are willing to face fines if they can collect data on us and resell it for lots of money?

I am wondering if these new regulations can be adjusted to include a rule that, if anyone collects information on me and sells it on without my knowledge, I will be alerted, told who the culprits are, given their address and allowed to throw rotten tomatoes at them.

But, according to the European Union website, I already have these rights (apart from throwing the rotten tomatoes). My data shouldn't be transferred without my knowledge unless it is for vital, life-saving reasons.

'Use my Facebook profile'

Whilst data trafficking is less virulent in Luxembourg than other parts of the world, you can bet your name, email address and mobile number it will be coming to a website near you very soon.

Firstly, I would recommend you set your security and privacy settings on social media to as high as you can. Secondly, however tempting it is to find out which Roald Dahl character or Disney princess you are, don't press the button that says "use my Facebook profile", as you automatically transfer all your data to a company that's in the business of selling it on. Thirdly, block websites from seeing your location, and finally, remember to tick the 'opt out' boxes if you register or pay for anything online. GDPR should be tackling the latter, but let's hope that, come the end of May, Europe starts issuing some big fat fines to personal detail traffickers.