By Victor de Pous
When money is not an issue companies tend to look at legal standards differently. Today, also digital entrepreneurs seem to go their own way more than ever before. Take Uber. Since its establishment in 2009, all kinds of legal conflicts of weight have occurred in various jurisdictions. From large-scale privacy violations and alleged misuse of trade secrets to claims based on structural sexual harassment and misleading a supervisory body. Exemplary, however, are the legal battles relating to its UberPOP ride-share service, executed by ordinary people who love to moonlight. This business model fundamentally clashes with the licensed passenger transport regulation that many countries have in place. You could have counted that on your fingers in advance.
And there is Mark Zuckerberg. Asking rechtspraak.nl about Facebook, the official jurisprudence website in the Netherlands, disclosed mid-August 2018 nearly 1900 legal decisions based on Dutch law only. Often these cases refer to information law issues, such as libel, insult, fake news, incitement, hatred and personal threats – sometimes with very drastic consequences for the victim. It is noteworthy that Mr. Zuckerberg stated during the live-aired hearing before the US Senate on April 10, 2018 without any reservation that his company is responsible for the content, which the user puts on the platform. An interesting legal position, although the European Court of Justice held users who operate and organize a fan page on Facebook responsible for safeguarding the involved data on June 5, 2018.
Meanwhile, for the second time in history a privacy scandal had made headline news worldwide. In June 2013 a string of revelations by Edward Snowden about the US intelligence and security services rattled the international community. In March 2018 another whistleblower wrote history. This time, the subject matter concerned the intelligent abuse of personal data of 87 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica for a political goal. The case is no exception. Facebook as well, like Uber, Airbnb and others, has a track record of modus operandi that encounters the ethical side of business head-on.
After the early years, 2011 shows as a turning point, when Facebook started with targeted advertising and the Austrian Max Schrems began his legal crusade. Recently, the privacy battle is picking up even more momentum. According to the Landgericht Berlin (January 16, 2018), Facebook acts unlawfully towards its users by certain standard settings and hidden and unclear consent statements. A month later, a Brussels judge followed the view of the national privacy regulator: Facebook does not provide Belgian users with sufficient information about the collection of their Internet behavior, what the company does with the data and how long the data is retained. The by statute law required permission is also lacking. On May 16, 2018, the Dutch privacy regulator held that the social network violated applicable pre-GDPR privacy legislation too.
Cyber threats normally come from the usual suspects. Professional criminals, the accidental law-breaking student, terrorists, and spies of certain nations. We classify these threats under cybercrime and cybersecurity is the defense weaponry. If you look at the danger of digital threats more broadly, disruptive companies are also guilty of this. They create societal and individual uncertainty and violate laws and regulations indeed – as a part of their normal business strategy, for shareholder value. And there is Volkswagen cum sui, who signed up to the list of companies who are a deploying IT different- ly. This category of misbehaviors excels in manipulation, using code to mislead. Once more, they constitute a digital threat to users, competitors, regulators, the government and society as a whole.
Yet another and even paramount digital threat arises from poor digital quality in general and faulty software in particular. What every individual IT user (organization) needs, is digital quality by design. But what he gets, sometimes, is a patch. And last but not least, human failure scores at the main cause of formally reported personal data breaches in the Netherlands. Thanks to the Internet of Things, everything becomes smart. Now mankind. Open your eyes.
About the author
Victor de Pous is a corporate lawyer, legal analyst and researcher.He has over thirty years of experience in the legal and policy aspects of digital technology, information processing and the information society.
Photo: Arvid de Windt