British Government showdown with social media giants next month

Last chance saloon for social media giants, warns Matthew Hancock, Secretary of State, DCMS as British Government raises the prospect of a ‘breach of duty of care’ owed to users of social media services and promises more legislation unless they get themselves sorted out.

Speaking to The Sunday Times (25 March 2018), Hancock said Facebook and other tech giants that harvested personal data from users would be ordered to simplify their terms and conditions so they fitted on a single page.

He’s summoned Facebook, Google and Twitter to a showdown next month following revelations about the way Facebook data was used by the UK firm Cambridge Analytica to help Donald Trump’s Presidential election campaign.

A cloud still hangs over the prospect of unlawful profiling of UK citizens to influence their voting intentions ahead of Brexit in favour of the leave campaign, again implicating Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and now subject to a high profile investigation by the ICO that could lead to criminal charges.

Hancock told The Sunday Times the web giants were “failing” in their “duty of care” to customers. He will demand users are given a simple bullet-point guide to how their personal data will be handled. If the companies don’t change their terms and conditions, then the Government will step in and they will all face new laws to “curb abuses of power”.

The extent of the obfuscation by the social media giants is breath-taking. Facebook’s service agreement runs to some 3,700 words covering 10 sides of A4 and Twitter’s is 11,000 words, taking up 32 pages.

In a clear admission that the British Government has enjoyed a cosy relationship with the social media giants in the past because of the powerful hold they have on reaching millions of people in an instant, Hancock said it was time to “reset the dial”.

The latest media disquiet over the way Facebook appears to have failed to take control over its social media platform has led to a revolt by global brands and users and has created a global crisis of confidence on a scale never seen before.

Hancock will demand to know how these social media giants will give users control over their personal data and seek assurances that personal data will not be misused given that the higher standards of data protection, privacy and security are applicable across all 28 Member States of the EU as a result of the GDPR that’s fully enforceable from 25 May 2018 – just 42 working days away.

“Technology is a massive force for good in our world. But good tech needs trust, and the big platforms are losing trust. Social media companies have a duty of care to citizens, and are currently failing in this duty of care. People are bewildered by pages of unwieldy terms and conditions. I want these boiled right down so people can see in one glance what they’re signing up to. I want the big platforms to answer questions and demonstrate they are willing to change,” warns Hancock.

These social media giants are drinking in the last chance salon. We’ll await the outcome of the showdown with the British Government with interest.

For further information on the GDPR Transition Programme at Henley Business School, click here. A new 60 Minute GDPR Fast Track Video is also available for companies wanting to train their staff. More information, click here. For details on the GDPR Handbook, click here

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