Tech giants hit with 8.8 billion in lawsuits regarding forced consent barriers on day one of GDPR.

Sorry for the late post, crazy day. It was also day one of GDPR enforcement in Europe, and it would seem that the easy transition hoped for by tech giants like Google and Facebook just got a lot tougher.

Max Schrems is an Austrian data privacy activist. Max took objection to the practice of forced consent in software. Basically what happens is after you install a shiny new piece of software a window pops up with a long list of demands you need to agree to or you are simply not allowed to use it. Somehow the tech companies consider this a binding contract. Many people agree with that philosophy. After all, you did sign the document, or clicked agree, or whatever other form it took. I have even seen this shady business practice performed in such a way where even the act of paying for the service is marked as showing your consent to a long list of small print legalize. I don’t think of this as being a binding contract at all and I will try to explain my reasoning shortly but more importantly, the GDPR doesn’t agree with that statement and neither did Max, and lucky for Max he seems to have the kind of bankroll to do something more about it than just blog.

Max hit Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Google for a combined total of 8.8 Billion Euro with a capital B. Go you, Max. I’m sure this will result in a lot of positive press and at the very least will settle for more cash money than any one man can ever spend. But more importantly for the rest of us, it will show how much resolve the European Union has for enforcing such legislation, and also how many headaches and how much cash the big tech companies are willing to spend on keeping their stranglehold on your personal data.

Looked at objectively the tech companies have a vested interest in spending as much as it takes to fight this, for collecting data and selling it is their entire business model. They all work on a flipped business model. Where you are no longer the customer, you are the product. I have heard people before complain about Google’s customer service. Funny thing is Google has great customer service. Sign up for Google Adwords and spend cash on search ads and Google will be at your beck and call to address your every concern. This is not unprecedented, Broadcast TV worked off this model for a long long time. Then again look what is happening to them now that digital streaming offers a better product, and most people reluctantly accept advertisements as an acceptable way to get a product for free. What is much much more disturbing is the idea of these companies selling dumps of highly personalized data to whatever company or organization that currently has the cash to pay for it. (Note; the government would never have to pay, their payment is allowing the tech giant to keep existing.) Given these tech companies in question, Google and Facebook both claim that they do not sell data directy to third-party firms, but scenarios, where the firms are able to truthfully say this and still sell the data, are possible. For instance, they could not be selling the data but giving it away for lucrative contracts or massive discounts on services needed. The sure thing is that if there are loopholes they will be exploited. Doublespeak is an existing and real problem in American corporate structure.

A lifetime ago I used to work in the ski industry. This problem to reminds me of that time. When the resorts would have this sort of implied consent form on the back of every ticket in small print. Their logic was that if a person bought a ticket they were then agreeing to every word written on the back of the ticket. Totally ignoring the fact that you don’t even see the ticket until after you pay for it, thus could never agree to anything it says let alone read it in the first place.

People would inevitably get hurt at the ski area and would also inevitably have to sue to cover hospital and lost wage costs, and surprisingly they would win more often than not. I would always hear the words ‘contract under diress’ come up in these cases. Which basically means that a contract cannot be enforced if a person was coerced or forced to sign it, and it is not that hard of an argument to sell that nowhere in the process from marketing to booking to traveling and physically walking up to the ticket booth is there any discussion of this contract being signed. Your first introduction to the contract is when you notice on the lift after you have already paid for it and thus allegedly agreeing to it. You cannot and should never be forced to sign away your rights. The ski resorts have legal obligation to keep you as safe as they can including an obligation to close their doors if conditions make that impossible.

So to close, Trying to coerce someone into a contract is a crap business practice and pretty much goes against the principal of being a decent human-being with their shit together. It should be illegal to the extent that it isn’t already, which it (to my interpretation of the law) is.