The Irish Data Protection Commission (IDPC) has ten ongoing investigations into the data handling practices of Facebook or its subsidiaries, Instagram and WhatsApp.
An IDPC report released last week illustrates how the social network remains at the centre of a data privacy storm that threatens to strike Facebook with further regulatory penalties for failing to safeguard the security of users.
Mark Zuckerberg has had a tough 12 months battling era-defining privacy dilemmas, the greatest of which included a security error that led to the exposure of 50 million accounts, and the harvesting of user data to enable UK firm, Cambridge Analytica, to conduct voter profiling in the run up to US election cycles in 2014 and 2016.
The IDPC is leading the GDPR charge because Facebook has its European headquarters in Dublin, but the popular platform is also coming under fire in the US where the Federal Trade Commission is conducting a probe into Facebook’s privacy practices that could lead to a multi-billion-dollar fine.
The IDCP’s ten investigations into Facebook relate to issues including data processing for behavioural analysis and targeted advertising, Instagram’s handling of personal information, and processing of data between WhatsApp and other Facebook-owned platforms.
Some of the problems stem from user complaints, while others have been launched through IDPC initiative.
In a statement, Facebook said:
“We made our policies clearer, our privacy settings easier to find and introduced better tools for people to access, download, and delete their information. We are in close contact with the Irish Data Protection Office to ensure we are answering any questions they may have.”
Twitter has already pledged “to improve the already strong data and privacy protections we offer to the people who use our services. As always, our approach is one of transparency and openness.”
The stance of Twitter and Facebook that reveals how seriously global names are taking the GDPR, and how the EU’s privacy laws are forcing multinationals to tighten attitudes on data privacy in the modern era.
Consumer awareness of the importance of safeguarding user data is growing in kind: the Irish Data Protection Commission has received 3,542 valid notifications of data security breaches since the GDPR came into effect in May 2018, and has reported an annual jump of 56% in the number of consumer complaints submitted.
The escalation has prompted the IDPC to take on more staff to handle the extra workload.
Commenting on the figures, Ireland’s data protection commissioner, Helen Dixon said:
“The rise in the number of complaints and queries demonstrates a new level of mobilisation to action on the part of individuals to tackle what they see as misuse or failure to adequately explain what is being done with their data.”