(Reuters) — As Europe’s new privacy law took effect on Friday, one activist wasted no time in asserting the additional rights it gives people over the data that companies want to collect about them.
Austrian Max Schrems filed complaints against Google, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, arguing they were acting illegally by forcing users to accept intrusive terms of service or lose access.
That take-it-or-leave-it approach, Schrems told Reuters Television, violates people’s right under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to choose freely whether to allow companies to use their data.
“You have to have a ‘yes or no’ option,” Schrems said in an interview recorded in Vienna before he filed the complaints in various European jurisdictions.
The GDPR overhauls data protection laws in the European Union that predate the rise of the internet and, most importantly, foresees fines of up to 4 percent of global revenues for companies that break the rules.
That puts potential sanctions in the ballpark of anti-trust fines levied by Brussels that, in Google’s case, have run into billions of dollars.
Andrea Jelinek, who heads both Austria’s Data Protection Authority and a new European Data Protection Board set up under GDPR, appeared to express sympathy with Schrems’ arguments at a news conference in Brussels.
Asked about the merits of Schrems’ complaints, Jelinek said: “If there is forced consent, there is no consent.”
Scourge of Facebook
Schrems was a 23-year-old…