Controversial data protection law approved in Spain

MADRID: The Spanish Senate approved Wednesday a controversial online data protection law which critics say will allow political parties to target voters with ads based on their internet browsing history.

The law was approved in Spain’s upper house of parliament with 220 votes in favour and 21 against.

It aims to make Spanish law comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into force in May.

Among other things, the GDPR boosts people’s right to be forgotten and guarantee free, easy access to personal data. However, the Spanish law added an addendum which gives political parties a conduit  to “use personal data obtained from web pages and other publicly accessible sources to carry out political activities” during election campaign periods. “It will allow parties to carry out practices like those of Cambridge Analytica”, it said in a statement in a reference to a now defunct British data consultancy which is accused of having harvested the data of millions of Facebook users without their permission.

The law stipulates that people who do not wish to receive targeted adverts from parties should be provided with a “simple and free way to exercise their opposition”.

Under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, the collection of data regarding people’s political opinions could be authorised as long as the appropriate guarantees are given. Spanish consumer group FACUA and far-left party Unidos Podemos both said in separate statements that they would challenge the law in Spain’s Constitutional Court.

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