Following the recent investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) into how personal data has been processed by Facebook, the EU has announced it will set up a special committee to look at the wider use of personal data through social media.

The EU’s Working Party 29 brings together the data protection authorities from member states for the purpose of co-ordinating a united approach to data protection issues. Last week they reiterated their determination to protect individuals against unlawful use of their personal data on social media platforms.

The Chair of Working Party 29, Andrea Jelinek, has announced in a press release, “While Cambridge Analytica and Facebook are on top of everyone’s mind we aim to cast our net wider and think long-term. This is why we are creating a Social Media Working Group. What we are seeing today is most likely only one instance of the much wider spread practice of harvesting personal data from social media for economic or political reasons. WP29 is fully aware, however, that the issue is broader and concerns other actors, such as app developers and data brokers.”

On 25 May 2018 the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect. The new legislation will bolster the rights of individuals in relation to how their data is processed. Not only will individuals be able to request copies of their personal data but they will also have other rights, such as to be told what information is held about them, to withdraw their consent at any time, and request that their data is erased (known as the “right to be forgotten”). As well as these rights, individuals will also be able to claim for the distress caused if their data is processed unlawfully.

It is highly likely that the introduction of the GDPR will receive extended media attention on 25th May. Initiatives such as that announced by the EU Working Party 29 above, and the publicity surrounding the Facebook story, mean that there will be increased awareness amongst individuals and consumers of their rights under data protection legislation. As the Facebook story has demonstrated, a leak of personal data can result in adverse media coverage and a potential intervention from the ICO. It is highly recommended that businesses and organisations ensure they have procedures in place before 25 May 2018.

If you have any questions regarding these issues please contact one of our expert Data Protection lawyers, Jo Henderson or Carla Murray, on 0161 941 4000 or at lawyers@myerson.co.uk.

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