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Spain just passed a data protection law that allows ‘party political profiling’

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.

Spain just passed a data protection law that allows 'party political profiling'
Photo: everythingposs/Depositphotos

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.    

It also requires businesses to inform people about data breaches that could negatively impact them.

But the Spanish law included an amendment which allows political parties to “use personal data obtained from web pages and other publicly accessible sources to carry out political activities” during election campaign periods.   

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.

The Spanish law was already approved last month by Spain's lower house of parliament and passage in the senate was the final step before it could come into effect.

Spain's Platform for the Defence of Freedom of Information said the law paves the way for parties to create “ideological profiles”.   

“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.

That data was then allegedly used to direct political advertising at US voters during the 2016 presidential election, as well as to British voters during the referendum that year on Britain's membership in the EU.

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.

ELECTION

Madrid puts off separatist talks over Catalan snap election

Spain's central government on Thursday said the announcement of snap elections in Catalonia would delay planned talks between Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the region's separatist leadership.

Madrid puts off separatist talks over Catalan snap election
Catalan regional president Quim Torra (R) meets with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at the Palacio de Pedralbes in Barcelona on December 20, 2018.Photo: AFP

News that the regional election would be brought forward was announced by regional president Quim Torra on Wednesday but he did not give a date, suggesting some time after mid-March.

The date was brought forward following a major dispute between Catalonia's two ruling separatist parties, Together for Catalonia (JxC) and the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC).

The announcement came ahead of a key February 6 meeting in Barcelona between Torra and Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to lay the ground for talks on resolving the separatist conflict.

In response, Sanchez's office said the meeting would go ahead but that the negotiations would not begin until a new regional government was in place.   

“The government is hoping to be able to begin the dialogue after the Catalan people have spoken… as soon as the elections are over and there is a new (regional) government, then we will begin talking,” said a statement.

“The government remains willing to start the process of dialogue with the Catalan institutions to resolve the political conflict.”

The talks had been agreed as part of a deal with ERC in exchange for its support in getting Sanchez through a key investiture vote earlier this month.   

But the delay was swiftly denounced by the ERC as a “flagrant breach of the agreement which was completely irresponsible,” its party spokesman Sergi Sabria said.

Sanchez, who himself is in a fragile position at the head of a minority coalition government, still needs ERC's support to pass Spain's own much delayed national budget.

In a radio interview Thursday, Torra said he would bring up the right to self-determination and amnesty for the nine jailed Catalan separatist leaders when he meets Sanchez — both of which have already been rejected out of hand by the Socialist leader.

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