EU watchdog: Data collection can't fly under 'user experience' flag

Big data projects run the risk of breaking EU data protection laws

Improving users' experiences is no justification for using consumer information in big data projects, according to Europe's top data protection officials.

The Article 29 Working Group, which includes the data protection supervisors from the European Union's 27 member states, said that consumers' "specific, explicit consent" is almost always required if companies want to use their information in big data projects.

In an opinion document adopted last week, the group stated that "vague or general purposes" such as "improved user experience", "marketing", "IT security" or "future research" are not, on their own, sufficiently specific enough to gain consent.

The newly published 70-page document (http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/article-29/documentation/opinion-recommendation/files/2013/wp203_en.pdf#page=8&zoom=auto,0,276) sets out the rules that organszations must abide by if they want to use consumer data.

The group, which makes recommendations to the European Commission, defined big data as "gigantic digital datasets held by corporations, governments and other large organisations" that "relies on the increasing ability of technology to support the collection and storage of large amounts of data, but also to analyse, understand and take advantage of the full value of the data."

The argument in favour of big data projects is that they may ultimately lead to better and more informed decisions. The group cites examples such as health care, mobile communications, smart grid, traffic management and fraud detection, where the analysis of big data could have a positive impact. However it warned "consent should be required, for example, for tracking and profiling for purposes of direct marketing, behavioural advertisement, data-brokering, location-based advertising or tracking-based digital market research."

One of the central tenets of the document is the "reasonable expectations of the data subjects" as to the use of their data. So consent given for one process is for that reason alone.

The document also examined the use of public sector information and warned of a possible increase in government surveillance. This could be mitigated by anonymising data, it said.

European Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes welcomed a decision by the E.U. Council's 'Coreper' committee to endorse a plan to open up public sector data for re-use across Europe. She was confident the European Parliament would also approve the plan in coming weeks.

"Opening up public data means opening up business opportunities, creating jobs and building communities," said Kroes. According to the Commission, wider availability of public data could boost economic activity by tens of billions of euros per year across the E.U.

Once fully implemented into national law, the revision of the 2003 Public Sector Information Directive would make all generally accessible public sector information, such as geographical data, statistics, meteorological data, data from publicly funded research projects and digitised books from libraries, available for re-use at zero or minimal cost.

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Behaviour change, by design

​We’re living in an age of unprecedented change. We experience with Oculus Rift, invest with Acorns, consume video through Hyper, tune into Pandora and navigate with Waze.

Glen Jeffreys

Head of UX, Deepend Group

Chat bots: How to use them commercially right now

I’m sure that many of you out there have heard a lot about chat bots (aka messaging bots) recently, and the fact that they are here to stay is pretty evident by now.

Deniz Nalbantoglu

Managing director, Webling-Interactive

Top tips to uncovering consumer insights for business innovation

An in-depth understanding of consumers sits at the heart of what we all need to do, but we know it’s not always easy to uncover insights that will unlock a true innovation opportunity.

Matt Whale

Managing director, How To Impact

There is a new digital capture tool called QuickTrials app (www.quicktrials.com) that allows people who conduct Field Trials to collect t...

Quick Trials

How a new digital and data strategy for agriculture is helping farmers innovate

Read more

Recommendation engine is a great example of AI / ML.

Francis Kim

Chat bots: How to use them commercially right now - Big data delivery - CMO Australia

Read more

This new logo is offensively bad! And stop flashing it at us in between points on the television coverage. Trying to subliminally program...

Simon

Tennis Australia unwraps new brand identity for Australian Open

Read more

Thanks, Nadia. It was so interesting blog for me because it helps me able to understand well on the basics of business and marketing conc...

term paper help online

3 ways marketers can raise their executive influence

Read more

Having been to the AO on Wednesday for the first time in a number of years I was very impressed with the new branding. The event has evol...

Naomi

Tennis Australia unwraps new brand identity for Australian Open

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in