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Data Flash: What is this GDPR thing I keep hearing about?

Posted by on May 26th, 2018 Posted in: Data Science, Technology
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May 25 begins the era of the GDPR, or, General Data Protection Regulation, a new European program with strong enforcement provisions which sets data protection as a default rather than requiring users to opt-out of entities being allowed to use their data (to put it VERY simplistically).  Why should we in the U.S. pay any attention to something applying to European data?  Well….

–The coming tide of companies, governments, and others using and combining and potentially misusing our personal data is no longer a swell, it’s a tsunami (says Tom Wheeler of the Brookings Institute).  The time to act is now, and Europe’s action will have ripple effects.  So it’s a good thing to be aware of the GDPR because something like it will be in our lives eventually (even if not coming soon to a theater near you).

–Many large American companies are already global anyway, and they are having to respond due to their European presence.  Facebook and Apple are two examples.

–Even many smaller U.S. companies and organizations, though they don’t have to protect your data under the GDPR, are proactively notifying you that they are taking steps to do so (you’ve probably seen a lot of these notices in your inbox recently–The New York Times suggests you read them).

–Last but not least, it’s a fascinating new conceptualization of our entitlements as online beings!  The GDPR arguably “enshrines data protection as a fundamental human right“.  It moves the discussion about data and our privacy as individuals WAAAAAY forward and in new directions.

This article, from Vox, puts it well: “…Norms are shifting once more. Looking back, we can frame the development of digital behavior into three phases: First, there was a naiveté phase, where consumers didn’t really understand the technology and what it meant. Then there was the careless phase, where people saw data rights or privacy as either unimportant or an acceptable price of entry to all the good, free stuff. Now it is clear we are entering the demand phase, which sees the emergence of a more savvy, engaged, and alarmed digital consumer — and related movements to create and enforce consumer rights.”

Watch this space–and all of your online presences–for further developments!


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Developed resources reported in this program are supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012343 with the University of Washington.

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