Five years have passed since GDPR was implemented in Europe. The transition was immediately noticeable for most companies who previously had a relaxed approach to information handling. It didn't take long for the first fines to be handed out. In 2023, on the anniversary year of GDPR, a record amount of money has already been fined for violating regulations. On May 22, the company behind Facebook, Meta, was fined a record fee for yet another breach of GDPR.
It's easy to miss the bigger picture in our fully digitalized society. Immediate access to information, entertainment, time savings hacks and the opportunity to connect with other people is a positive thing. However, there is a price to pay. Every day, we leave digital footprints that the big tech companies save, process, and sell on. Information such as online behavior, age, geography, education (or lack thereof), sexual orientation, and ethnicity are all sold for advertising purposes.
It is not only in the marketing of products and services that our personal information is being misused. In recent years, we have seen several examples of how political parties and candidates have used this information to give different messages to specific groups. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a good example, where over 50 million Facebook profiles were misused in attempts to influence US elections. It has proven to be quite an effective tool for spreading information, not to mention creating further polarization.
Unfortunately, the situation is no better in Europe. For years, tech giants have used machine learning to find patterns in our behavior without risking oversight. Political organizations are exploiting this in an attempt to influence vulnerable groups. The European Parliament has proposed tightening the rules for targeted political advertisement by banning the use of data-based tracking of individuals. The European Council is trying not only to stop the proposal, but also to reverse already adopted rules. As a result, it will be easier for political parties to misuse our sensitive personal data.
Functional democracies are dependent on solid and truthful information. Hence, it is crucial that we have regulatory framework which respects the power of communication. At Kobler, we work every day to offer our customers a privacy-friendly option to reach recipients. As a result, we believe the future is and will be based on contextual advertisement.
We congratulate GDPR on a well-deserved 5th anniversary, and hope that the road to better online privacy also continues the next five years.