Moving fast and breaking things? Facebook's Lobbying of the European Union's General Data Protection Directive
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This thesis sets out to investigate to what extent the social media company Facebook influenced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union between 2012 and 2016. Facebook is one of the biggest and most distrusted technology platforms in the World. Multiple times, private data gathered from the platform has been used to meddle with elections or referendums, affecting international relations and democracy. For this reason, it is important to investigate how Facebook participated in the democratic process of shaping a regulation, which limited its business significantly, namely the GDPR. The purpose of the thesis is two-fold. Firstly, it will enlighten a lay man's audience on the European lobbying process, which can seem secretive and corrupt. Secondly, it will add to the academic literature on EU interest groups, since a study about the influence of data regulation by specific technology companies has never before been conducted. The thesis will apply multiple acknowledged theories in order to establish a framework, which allows for a trustworthy conclusion. Central to the research are Pieter Bouwen's Theory of Access and Heike Klüver's focus on the aggregated goods of coalitions. In addition, the thesis applies two widely acknowledged methodological approaches, measuring influence. These are as follows: the assessment of attributed influence, which relies on interviews with central actors of the legislative process and the assessment of preference attainment, which compares Facebook's initial ideals of influence to the final outcome of the GDPR. The thesis arrives at the conclusion that Facebook on the very salient issue of consent was able to influence the GDPR significantly. Overall, however, Facebook had a modest influence on the GDPR due to the company's lack of information supply, citizen support and coalition work. To that end, the thesis ultimately concludes that politicians of the Western world are increasingly acting as guardians of data privacy.