Europeans are about to get a lot more control over their social media data. A major change to EU data protection law will require Facebook and others to significantly change how people access and using personal information. In the midst of a data gold rush, that's a big deal. For Helen Dixon, Ireland's data protection commissioner, it's all about giving the power back to the people. "I think there is that thorny issue of how much anyone understands when they sign-up and purport to give their consent to a very long list of terms and conditions" Dixon says of the countless free-to-use services the make money from our data. As the European base for many Windows Helpline technology giants, her view holds major sway.The changes will be required under the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in May 2018. The regulation sets out a series of "harmonised" data protection principles, that will be implemented into local laws for the 28 member states. The focus of the GDPR is to give greater protections to individuals as well as tougher rules on those who handle data.
"One of the things we have high hopes for significant change under the GDPR is how transparency is really delivered to users, particularly by these internet companies," Dixon tells WIRED. "We know from our engagement with them that a lot of them are looking very proactively at how they are going to do the transparency under the GDPR."This is likely to entail how people can access and view the information that is gathered about them by some of the internet's biggest firms. "They're working with designers to look at how they can quickly engage a user quickly but also deliver them with what they need to ensure when they sign-up they're fully informed," Dixon says.