noyb NEWS

New European-Privacy NGO to enforce fundamental rights vs. tech giants

Nov 28, 2017

Press Release: The new charitable “European Center for Digital Rights – noyb” is looking for supporting members with a Kickstarter-type campaign.

„We have stringent data protection and privacy laws in Europe, but it sure feels different in practice.“,

says Max Schrems, founder of the nonprofit noyb (short for “none of your business”).

“That’s why we are starting a fundraising campaign for an independent and energetic organization to finally take effective action on a European level against the misuse of personal data.”

The Board of Directors of the nonprofit noyb consists of the lawyer, author and privacy activist, Max Schrems, the IT engineer, lawyer and Chairman of epicenter.works, Christof Tschohl, and the lawyer, lecturer and Director of the VKI (Consumer Protection)-Academy, Petra Leupold. The goal of noyb is to provide effective enforcement of digital rights and to make the legally guaranteed protections of your privacy a reality. Schrems:

“We want to bring the privacy that the law provides to your home – to your PC, to your mobile.”

Focus on corporations and their practices

The focus of noyb will be on commercial data processing by corporations. Corporate practices are rarely transparent. Internet users are commonly confronted with unlawful practices, agreements and terms and conditions. Their data is linked and sold behind the back of these consumers. Phenomena like big data, profiling and selective targeting are common practice today and will only grow in the future. Christof Tschohl (epicenter.works):

“Many companies are interested in a transparent con- sumer in order to better sell their products, and the technology provides them with the opportunity to collect, process and link large amounts of data – sometimes even very sensitive information – in order to make money. The existing rules are simply being ignored in the process. We have to set up effec- tive boundaries!”

Improved situation and active enforcement

In May 2018, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force. It includes massive improvements in the area of privacy enforcement for users. NGOs like noyb will be able to directly take actions for consumers with the relevant authorities and in court, e.g. through class action suits or strategic group action.

“This is an essential improvement to the current situation and it holds the potential that consumers might actually be able to enforce their rights in practice.”,

says Schrems.

The transnational dimension of privacy violations by global corporations is a new challenge for con- sumer protection organizations. Petra Leupold (VKI-Academy):

“The substantive privacy laws offer a relatively high level of protection. Up to this day, there is, however, an enforcement gap. We feel that there is an urgent need for a specialized organization, like noyb, to enforce the digital rights of con- sumers effectively and across borders. VKI and noyb will pool their resources and closely cooperate in order to take effective action against privacy violations.”

noyb will not just take actions against privacy violators, it will also publish guidelines and best prac- tices to give practical advice to businesses on how to follow the rules.

“Our goal is to make sure that companies abide by the law. For many typical companies that is not an easy task, and we want to give them practical tips on how to do that. Going after intentional violators at the same time may also lead to fairer competition”,

says Max Schrems. In addition, noyb plans to set up digital tools for privacy complaints, privacy inquiries and whistleblowing tools to strengthen the privacy of consumers.

Creating a counterweight to the Global Players costs money and requires partners

The goal of noyb is to confront tech giants like Facebook, Google & Co. with a team of highly qualified and motivated lawyers and IT experts on equal footing. This requires a minimum of € 250,000 in the start-up period of 2018, the regular operating costs will be around € 500,000 per year.
The current institutional partners are: the City of Vienna, the U.S. privacy NGO epic, the Austrian con- sumer protection agency VKI, the Norwegian Consumer Protection Agency Forbrukerrådet, the com- pany StartPage, which operates a privacy-friendly search engine, the Vienna Chaos Computer Club, and the legal insurance company Roland Prozessfinanz. Numerous experts from the areas of privacy protection, law and IT currently lend us their active support, among them two of the “fathers” of GDPR, Jan Philipp Albrecht (MEP/Greens) and Paul Nemitz (European Commission), Prof. Herwig Hofmann (University of Luxemburg) and Josef Weidenholzer (MEP/SPÖ).

Independence is crucial

Independence is a decisive principle for noyb, both concerning its structure and its funding. All Board members of noyb work on a pro bono (volunteer) basis. Institutional support and memberships will only be accepted when they are not in conflict with the mission or the activities of noyb and when they strengthen the necessary partnerships and networks. Hence, the bulk of the funding must come from a large number of private individuals in the form of supporting memberships and donations.

If the funding goal of € 250,000 is reached by January 2018, noyb can take action and start enforcing the new EU privacy rules that same year. Schrems: “It doesn’t make any sense to take on global com- panies without a solid basis. We want to do this properly, or not at all!” The goal seems realistic: “If only 5000 people all of Europe support noyb with € 5 per month each, we can get started.” And the first hurdle has been taken: The City of Vienna, StartPage and epic have already pledged funds amounting to 20% of the initial project costs before the start of the public campaign.

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