A View from Europe: GDPR and The Future of Data Privacy



Last week we were in Europe to talk about data privacy issues in advance of today, International Data Protection Day, January 28th, 2019. At Farsight, our mission is to enable security professionals to make the Internet safer for all users. Data privacy is a key tenet of this mission.

In visits with Dublin and London reporters, a primary discussion point was France’s recent €50 million fine against Google for failing to comply with its GDPR obligations. In an interview with The Times of London, Ireland Edition, Farsight Security CEO Dr. Paul Vixie called the fine "the first brick to fall from the wall of the giant surveillance culture we have become accustomed to. It will be the first of many,” Dr. Vixie said. “It is important that it is, so that the whole façade can come crumbling down and so that these companies can see that they can’t continue to grow in the same manner that they have been,” he said. “This is absolutely to be welcomed."

Google is not the only big tech company that has work to do around data privacy. In an interview with The Irish Examiner, Dr. Vixie said the social media firms were not doing enough to combat the spread of bad information and the use of private data by people with bad intentions. "They are merely paying lip service to it, delaying and deceiving and misdirecting as a way to continue growing revenue and their share price," he said.

Yet users need to understand that social media platforms are not the only risk to their data privacy. Internet-connect devices, from baby monitors to home thermostats, are mining user data to sell for ad targeting and other purposes. In a podcast interview with TechCentral, Dr. Vixie said, "An IoT device is very cheap –if you buy an internet-connected light bulb that manufacturer is competing with every other manufacturer – it is a race to the bottom pricewise. They are not going to make any money from selling that lightbulb. The manufacturer gets nothing except your personal data, which they will monetize."

While he applauds GDPR and similar EU protection laws and welcomes similar laws in the United States, Dr. Vixie does not foresee this happening soon. Just as Farsight built its solutions with privacy in mind so no personal identifiable information is collected, other organizations – and their leaders – need to take responsibility for protecting user data. In his interview with The Irish Examiner, Dr. Vixie said there were signs that other prominent historical technology and business leaders who were aware of their legacy could turn the tide.

"I’m not expecting internet billionaires of the current generation to have a change of heart soon, but I am expecting innovation to outfox them incrementally, one small step at a time. It may be faint cause for hope, but it is hope nonetheless.

"As a concept, the internet is permanent. We are always going to have one. As to what it is, how it got that way, and what it can be next, is still in our hands," Mr. Vixie said.

Karen Burke is Director of Corporate Communications with Farsight Security, Inc.