It wasn’t just Western countries which were aghast at the way Facebook bullied Australia and forced changes to the proposed Australian media code. This sovereign State face-off with big tech ploughed some lines in the sand. In many ways, it confirmed a view that was already developing in China and encapsulated in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) proposals presented to the Lianghui, or Two Sessions, meeting this week.

The approach taken by China differs in some important ways from the EU approach and has an impact on every company doing business in China. The GDPR is designed to answer several questions.

The first is identifying the major hurdles in personal information protection in an era of big data. We know the user does not have the tech skills to protect their personal information. They must rely on the coercive power of the State to provide the protection. The big tech companies will not do this voluntarily because the potential for profit is too great. Surveillance capitalism relies on gathering, for free, personal data which can then be sold. The Facebook debacle in Australia shows how strongly they will move to protect profits.

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