Thursday

5th Aug 2021

Germany pledges 'strict' laws after Facebook data breach

  • 'We'll need much tighter supervision of companies like Facebook', German justice minister said (Photo: Derzsi Elekes Andor)

Germany aims to pass new laws on social media after revelations that Facebook data was used to manipulate voters.

"In future we will clearly have to monitor companies like Facebook more strictly and punish data protection violations severely and quickly," German justice minister Katarina Barley told press in Berlin on Monday (26 March).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We'll need much tighter supervision of companies like Facebook", she added.

She spoke after meeting Richard Allan, the head of the US social media firm's public policy for Europe, but she said that his "promises were not enough" to satisfy authorities.

Barley added that firms like Facebook should tell users in "clear, precise and simple language" how their data will be used, and described what happened at the US firm as "intolerable".

She spoke after revelations that UK consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica used a bogus questionnaire to obtain detailed information on 50 million Facebook users. About 2,700 people out of the 270,000 who took part in the questionnaire were from Europe.

Cambridge Analytica then used that information to target what it called people's "inner demons" with fake news updates in order to help Donald Trump in the 2016 US election.

Germany's tough line was echoed by Vera Jourova, the EU's justice commissioner.

"Have any data of EU citizens been affected by the recent scandal? If this is the case, how do you intend to inform the authorities and users about it?", she wrote in a letter to Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, seen by the Reuters news agency.

She asked Sandberg if a similar situation could "not be repeated today" and if Facebook thought stricter rules were needed for social media firms "like those that exist for traditional media".

She also said "disappointed" in Facebook's boilerplate reactions to the data breach so far.

"Trust is now diminished," Jourova said.

A new EU law that comes into force later this year will fine firms four percent of global turnover for similar breaches, but this would not be retrospective on Facebook.

A German law already punishes social media firms with up to €50m fines if they do not take down posts or ads containing hate speech.

Jourova gave Facebook two weeks to answer her letter and urged it to cooperate with British data authorities in their investigation of the Cambridge Analytica affair.

Germany has played a lead role in EU privacy legislation in part due to its traumatic legacy of the East German police state during the Cold War.

Facebook promises more privacy ahead of new EU rules

Speaking in Brussels, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, says the social media giant has "not done enough to stop the abuse of our technology." Her admission comes with new plans to wrestle with "bad content".

Facebook to shift ad revenue away from Ireland

Public pressure about low corporate taxes appear to have pressured Facebook to launch plans to stop routing international ad sales through its Dublin-based headquarters in Ireland.

Brexit vote manipulated, says data whistleblower

Christopher Wylie told British MPs that the campaign behind getting the UK to leave the EU had used dubious methods to sway voters. He said Canadian firm Aggregate IQ was subcontracted through Cambridge Analytica to target people.

News in Brief

  1. EU secures deal with Novavax for potential Covid-19 vaccine
  2. France fined €10m for failing to tackle air pollution
  3. Fire near Athens forces thousands to evacuate
  4. EU to Lebanon: 'deliver results' on Beirut blast probe
  5. Belarus opposition leader demands regime end
  6. Croatia's border-monitoring of migrant rights 'falls short'
  7. Court stops Austria's Afghan deportation, as conflict worsens
  8. 'Missing' Belarus exiles group chief found dead in Kyiv

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Italy seeks EU help on migrant boat arrivals
  2. WHO calls for vaccine-booster pause to help poor countries
  3. Romania selling on its jabs, despite low vaccination rates
  4. Cyprus' Varosha is Erdogan's canary in the coalmine
  5. Europe sees drop in Covid-19 cases
  6. Burkinis and 'soul caps' - policing Olympic women back in fashion
  7. Telegram groups lure migrant hopefuls to Lithuania
  8. Third-time lucky for one Syrian grandmother in Denmark

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us