Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Data concerns

The conversation on data privacy is swiftly taking political and public centre stage

On Monday, Facebook made its privacy principles—rules on how the company handles user data—public for the first time. It had good reason to do so. The European Union’s (EU’s) general data protection regulation will go live in May this year. Its vision of personal data privacy puts clear limits on the freedom that tech giants currently enjoy to gather and use user data as they wish. Facebook is getting out in front of the regulation to avoid legal tangles.

This is a conversation that is swiftly taking political and public centre stage. Many of the fears are overwrought—the tech giants are companies trying to turn a profit, not malevolent would-be overlords. So are the solutions being proposed—breaking them up would hurt consumers more than it would anyone else.

But there are also left-field suggestions, such as compelling them to share data—with user permission—for a licensing fee, lowering barriers to entry. The conversation will continue to evolve. As Facebook has shown, tech companies will have to do likewise.