Technology companies around the world hold a lot of data on their users. When you think about the amount of information you willingly hand over one a daily basis, it’s quite alarming to think that we don’t currently have a hold on our own information. As a Facebook user, you will likely regularly share information about your whereabouts, your likes and dislikes in addition to the masses of pictures we all upload every day. If you have a SmartPhone, it’s likely that this phone is also able to gather information on you, all in the name of making your life easier by offering directions or suggestions. The UK government is now taking a stand against the tech companies and is preparing to bring in new legislation to hold companies to account.
Digital Minister Matt Hancock announced the new rules which will allow users to ask to see what personal data companies hold. The new rules will also mean that companies will have to erase the data on request. In addition to these stricter controls, parents will have greater controls over their child’s data and will be able to give consent for it to be used. It will also become a criminal offence for an organisation to intentionally or recklessly make it possible for an individual to be identified from anonymised data. In the past, firms could make it so that users gave their consent for their data to be used by default, but changes to the law mean that organisations will have to gain explicit consent. This will mean the end of “opt out” options on online forms, and instead users will have the option to “opt in”.
In order to respond to the changing nature of big data, the definition of personal data will also be expanded to include IP addresses, DNA and browser cookies. This will have wide-reaching implications for a number of large tech organisations, including Facebook and Google. The changes are intended to make organisations more accountable for the information they hold on their users by enforcing financial penalties for non-compliance. However, the move has been criticised by some business groups. Mike Cherry, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses noted that small companies are likely to be hit hardest by these changes. He said: “They simply aren’t aware of what they will need to do, which creates a real risk of companies inadvertently facing fines.”