Austrian lawyer and privacy activist Max Schrems filed several multi-billion euro complaints in courts around Europe against Google (Android), Facebook, and two Facebook subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram [complaints, PDF] Friday-the same day as European Union data protection laws, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) [official website], went into effect.
The non-profit organization NOYB of the Austrian lawyer filed lawsuits against Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.
The biggest change (and one you may have already noticed) is that tech companies need to reveal the user data they collect.
"You have to have a "yes or no" option", Schrems said in an interview recorded in Vienna before he filed the complaints in various European jurisdictions.
"We see no reason why U.S. companies, as they strive to comply with the new European policies, can not extend the GDPR standard to American consumers", said Katharina Kopp of the Center for Digital Democracy, one of 28 activist groups endorsing a letter in that vein to major USA and global companies.
That puts potential sanctions in the ballpark of anti-trust fines levied by Brussels that, in Google's case, have run into billions of dollars.
And here is the paradox: The goal of GPDR is to "give citizens back the control of their personal data, whilst imposing strict rules on those hosting and "processing" this data, anywhere in the world".
Similar to Twitter the firm has been hit with shadowy firms that automatically like follow and comment on Instagram posts
He says this amounts to a system of "forced consent" from users.
In the new prompt, which appears when you visit News Feed, Facebook will allow you to review details about advertising, facial recognition, and the information you've chosen to share on your profile.
"Further, the unprecedented increase in the number of cybercrimes in the country has also created a number of job opportunities for data protection and cybersecurity professionals". Some of these sites have dozens and dozens of trackers from dozens of different advertisement companies, so the real issue here is even these sites themselves simply have no clue to whom they're shipping off your data - hence making it impossible to comply with the GDPR in the first place.
His laptop perched on the table of a traditional Viennese coffee house, Schrems showed how a pop-up message on Facebook seeks consent to use his data - and how he is blocked when he refuses. Egan also referred to a new feature Facebook announced earlier this month called "Clear History", which will let users see the websites tracking their information and delete the data from their accounts.
Depending on the European Union countries, there is generally also more public backing here than in the United States for the sort of expansive regulations that took effect Friday - at least as long as they don't turn the Internet into a bureaucratic nightmare.
A Tronc spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment Friday. Ensuing litigation may play out in Ireland, where both Facebook and Google have their European headquarters. It focuses mainly on data and privacy protection.
While Google and Facebook seem prepared to take on complaints, other American-based companies aren't pressing their luck.