After two years of build-up and a frenzy of last-minute, panicked activity over the past week, GDPR has finally taken effect.
There will be millions of websites out there that don’t comply with the new rules. Maybe their operators have abandoned them, don’t manage them full-time, haven’t thought their responsibilities, or have a niggling thought at the back of their head that they really should get around to thinking about it at some point.
But as the sun rises on this new data protection regime, it’s interesting to see how some online service operators have changed.
Some have gates that stop you doing anything until you’ve accepted new settings. Visit an Oath website like Engadget or TechCrunch, and you’ll get an opportunity – if you click through enough options – to opt in or out of tracking by over 100 different adtech providers.
Some apps take a similar approach – I couldn’t use Twitter’s Android app today until I’d confirmed my privacy settings.
And then there’s the nuclear option. Some American newspaper sites are currently inaccessible from the EU. Given EU citizens are covered by GDPR no matter where in the world they are, how long before someone flies over to L.A. and reports the L.A. Times for non-compliance? Some apps like Unroll.me have banned EU users, too.
And finally, there’s the nuclear obliteration option of shutting down completely. Klout’s shutdown was said to be expedited by GDPR.
Some will say that this pain simply isn’t worth it, that it shows a lack of understanding of the internet economy, and that it will kill many small businesses who can’t comply.
There’s some truth in those arguments (although it’s likely regulators will go much easier of small businesses than large, as long as they’ve shown some willingness to deal with the issues at hand), but really, this is all long overdue. In a world of data breaches and increasingly opaque, automated data processing techniques, it just isn’t fair or sustainable to keep users in the dark about what’s happening to information about them.
We should end up with a better internet. The short-term pain is worth the long-term gain.