Yahoo EU Data Privacy Lobbying Efforts Leaked

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Yahoo wants to ensure “pseudonymous” data does not have the same protections as non-anonymised information in Europe

A document, showing just how tech giant Yahoo wants Europe to change its plans to shake up data privacy laws, has been leaked.

It indicates Yahoo believes that “pseudonymous” data, which consists of information on people without directly identifying them and is widely used by firms for analysis to feed into targeted advertising or other user-related services, should not get all the protections that non-anonymised data receives.

Yahoo wants ‘pseudonymous’ recognition

Yahoo-plans-a-mass-employee-cullThe tech firm wants the EU to include a section on this kind of information in its Data Protection Regulation, which is currently being debated in Brussels, saying different rules should apply to it, according to the leak.

Yahoo is after a change to the draft laws, so that “in the context of pseudonymous data, legitimate interests – rather than contract or explicit consent – is the best-adapted legal basis for processing of this class of data”, the document suggests.

In the leaked document, Yahoo says such pseudonymous information can “leverage ‘uniqueness’ without having to know identity”. “Reliance on pseudonymous data also facilitates effective and privacy-sensitive aggregate data analysis and scientific research,” it read.

“Explicit consent is a well-recognised barrier to generating data sets that are large enough for effective aggregate data analysis.”

Privacy groups believe pseudonymous data provides enough information on people for it to be worthy of full protection. That means people should have control over how it is used – or as Yahoo would say, provide explicit consent.

“In a world of interconnected networks, there are a lot of data that are ‘pseudonymous’ but very little that is anonymous,” Joe McNamee, executive director of the European Digital Rights group.

“Would people be content if their mobile phone location data, search terms, address book, etc, etc, being used as long as their names are stored separately? In a networked world, it is very difficult to speak of ‘anonymous’ data, even less ‘pseudonymous’.”

TechWeekEurope contacted Yahoo for comment, but it is yet to offer a response to the leaked document  [Not even a pseudonymous response? – Editor] .

TechWeekEurope has uncovered mass lobbying efforts from US firms, such as Facebook, and the US government. They are concerned about various proposals, especially “the right to be forgotten”, which would allow people to demand traces of them be deleted by web companies at their request.

They are also worried about the fining powers the European Commission has put on the table, which would allow monetary penalties of as much as two percent of a company’s annual turnover.

Amazon and eBay are also working hard to twist officials’ arms. It was claimed this month that MEPs were copying and pasting recommendations from lobbyists into their own submissions for amendments.

Three Conservative MEPs were alleged to have copied and pasted substantial portions of their amendment proposals from lobbyist documents.

“The IT industry is about to kill our fundamental right to data protection and privacy and some Parliamentarians apparently do not even notice when assisting them,” said Max Schrems, founder of Europe v Facebook, earlier this month.

UPDATE: Yahoo offered the following statement on the matter: “At Yahoo we take privacy very seriously and have consistently prioritized transparency and choice for users on our website.”

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  1. The privacy brigade has it right – pseudonymous data can be de-anonymised as soon as its either”

    with other data from other pseudonymous sources. In fact as has been shown in several anonymised data disclosures by the UK government already, pseudonymous data hardly exists as the ability to de-anonymise is as easy as anonymising in a high % of cases.

    Add in that there is no such thing as absolute security – and the hackers will love the legal access to multiple sets of pseudonymous data and the wealth de-anonymised data they can then create access to thereby.

    the ‘right to delete’ is another unalienable right – and we undermine our very psyche by not facilitating it. Not all cultural changes are good…and these ‘data brokering’ companies like Yahoo and Facebook have only 1 interest in mind – their shareholders – the damage they do on the way is really of no concern to them.