Aral Balkan

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GDMR: this one simple regulation could end surveillance capitalism in the EU

The European Union flag with the acronym GDMR printed within the circle of yellow stars.

GDMR: The regulation EU citizens deserve.

No, you didn’t misread it and, no, it’s not a typo. GDMR – the General Data Minimisation Regulation – can end surveillance capitalism in the EU.

The problem is that no such regulation exists.

So, let’s change that, starting now.

To be effective, GDMR must be succinct and precise. The essence of it can be expressed in a single article with two paragraphs:

  1. In any digital/networked product, if a certain feature can be built where the algorithms and data are kept exclusively on an individual’s own devices, it must be built in that manner.

  2. In any such system, if an always-on centralised node hosted by the service provider is required for purposes of findability1 and availability2, any private information that is replicated to that centralised node must be end-to-end encrypted and the individual must be the exclusive holder of the private key.

That’s it.

Seriously, that’s it.

I keep hearing people ask ‘what is effective regulation?’ Effective regulation is not legislation that encourages the Facebooks and Googles to become arbiters of truth, filters of reality, and master censors.3 It’s this. Effective regulation is regulation that directly prevents the toxic core of the business model of people farming4 while incentivising the creation of ethical alternatives.5

Implement the GDMR as regulation in the EU today and wake up tomorrow to witness the death of surveillance capitalism and the birth of a European alternative that puts human rights and democracy, not corporate profits, first.

  1. For example, so that the service can be discovered/accessed via an easy-to-type domain name. [return]
  2. That is, so that the service is available even if all the person’s other physical devices are offline. [return]
  3. All things that they already are and do to a great extent. [return]
  4. Tracking, data collection, profiling, and the use of the resulting intimate insight into our lives to manipulate our behaviour to satisfy the profit and political motives of surveillance capitalists. [return]
  5. Ethical alternatives are free (as in freedom), decentralised/peer-to-peer, and interoperable. They will not be funded by the venture capitalists who gave us surveillance capitalism and make their billions from it. This alternative ethical technical infrastructure is essential for safeguarding the future of our human rights and democracy. We must fund it from the commons for the common good and it must be owned and controlled by individuals, not the state. And we must ensure that if the independent organisations building these ethical alternatives are successful, they cannot be bought out by Silicon Valley surveillance capitalists or traditional commercial interests so that our efforts don’t end up amounting to a fancy euphemism for privatisation and so that the EU stops acting like an unpaid (European taxpayer-funded) research and development department for Silicon Valley. [return]