On the 25th May 2018, the European Union will enforce a regulation (GDPR: General Data Protection Regulation) in all European Union countries, the clearly expressed aim of which is to protect all people residing in the EU. There's been lots of talk about the new rights it will give people, the rights of employees with regard to their employer, or the rights of Internet users who are subsequently plagued by advertising after having once left their personal information on a website. And who hasn't received push advertising immediately after looking at a product online? On closer consideration, the real issue of this new regulation goes a lot further, and there's every chance there'll be a flip side to the coin.
Who collects all our search data when we browse the Internet? Could it be Google and other search engine suppliers?
We leave telltale footprints, both physical and virtual, wherever we go. We use our favourite search engine to find the address of a hairdresser, furniture store, or to traipse around car dealer websites in search of a new vehicle… Big Brother knows exactly where we've been because we've accepted cookies from strangers or left our smartphones in WiFi mode, thus leaving a trail of pebbles in our wake, like so many Hansels and Gretels.
All our personal data is at the origin of a river of information that is sold to companies who want to push their shampoo, furniture or cars, and are prepared to pay dearly for advertising spaces that will scroll across our screen the next time we go online. So on the one hand there is an ocean of free data, and on the other all those who are prepared to exploit it to earn money. According to the article published on the lesechos.fr website on the 27th April 2017, the advertising revenue of Alphabet/Google represented 86% of their turnover during the 1st quarter in 2017; that is close to 21 billion dollars!
And Facebook has not been outdone either, seeing as according to information published by Capital.fr on the 31st July 2017, "Facebook continues to play hide and seek with French tax authorities…" According to the accounts submitted to the clerk of the Commercial Court of Paris on the 10th July and consulted by Capital.fr, the American giant's French subsidiary paid only 1.162.708 euros in tax on its profit in 2016. Just a tiny amount compared to their avowed turnover of 36.95 million euros, and their net operating income before tax, 3.42 million euros." Capital.fr did the maths: the estimated revenue made in France is 245 million euros… "The amount of corporate tax that Facebook France should have paid is 81.6 million euros! (at the going rate of 33.3%) A far cry from the 1.2 million actually paid by the French subsidiary! "
So much revenue that won't be going into the coffers of the European Union!
We present-day users surf the Internet to access free info, record our sporting performances, get the latest news, find recipes, and see what's on TV – all of which is achieved by using free applications. But who foots the bill when it comes to creating and providing these apps? The answer is simple: the same people who sell our precious information collected via these very apps for a high price!
So rationing the free-flow of personal data could well put the cat among the pigeons. With only 21% of people questioned by Omnicom Media Group saying they are prepared to pay to no longer receive adverts on their mobile phones, new models are begging to be invented by all the companies whose income, communication or marketing depends on exploiting our personal data. Although most consumers are perfectly aware that their data is being used, they may well choose to protect themselves.
All the more so when you consider that they often don't know how far this "spying" actually goes. What part of our personal data (our souls) are we ready to sacrifice to be able to use our sacrosanct Facebook and Snapchat services free of charge? The answer will surely depend on the person's age. But once companies have confessed to collecting all our data, they could well be obliged to collect less information, yet compensate for their loss by entering into a close and trusting relationship with their customers. By offering users increasingly customised uses, services or products.
In any event, a balance must be struck between the actors in question: data suppliers, media space suppliers, and media intermediaries. Less quantity may well oblige them to aim for greater quality, new economic models and above all greater balance between Europe and the US. By which we mean those who provide the data (free of charge) and those that capitalise on that data.
*Source OmnicomMediaGroup (Baromobile)