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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments
cmo-xs-promo

Latest Videos

More Videos

who wants to date me I am 9 years old and i am a boy

Jeremy Hawkins

Sink a sub gaming experience signals Subway's renewed brand push

Read more

Great read. I agree that it should be a perfect balance between interacting with your customers and knowing your brand. As a business, yo...

Caroline Scott

7 ways CMOs can improve their customer engagement game

Read more

Very true. Team development helps improve collaboration among the team members. I was able to improve my team's collaboration skills by t...

Quent Sinder

Why empowering others can help make you a great leader

Read more

CRM is a very good software that can help you succeed in your business. In my company, this system has allowed me to improve customer rel...

Anna Janicka

Sensis rebrands to Thryv and brings business software to Australian SMBs

Read more

AI Leasing Assistants have finally arrived for the multifamily industry. With so many to choose from it can be hard to figure out which i...

Alice Labs Pte. Ltd.

CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 6 May 2021

Read more

Blog Posts

Unboxing 101 - How savvy influencer engagement can build a brand

The humble unboxing video is a powerful tool. Correctly executed, it harnesses consumer fandom, viral authenticity and brand design magic to deliver a high-impact message to a tightly targeted cohort of consumers.

Gali Arnon

Chief marketing officer, Fiverr

​Power to the people

Purpose is the ultimate statement of intent for many organisations. Why are we here? What are we trying to achieve?

Rich Curtis

CEO, FutureBrand A/NZ

The playbook to develop strategic brand moats

Warren Buffet is an unlikely ally for marketers. But his belief businesses need strategic moats that increase their value in the market while acting as barriers to competitors can offer marketers a new playbook for brand building and driving growth.

Fabian Di Marco

Founder and managing director, Tzu & Co

Sign in