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GDPR in action: EU users blocked out from major news sites

As you all know already, the European Union General Data Protection Regulation came into force on Friday, the 25th of May, 2018. Not surprisingly, this has caused a global panic-like wave not very different from what we experienced at the end of the 1990s with the feared “Millenium Bug” (aka Y2K).

As a consumer and a user from the European Union, I have some difficulties understanding why some major global players are seeing GDPR as so problematic. It only requires transparency, or letting users know how their data is used and stored. No rocket science here.

USA Today (https://www.usatoday.com/) says it outright, explaining what it is all about when a user with an European IP address opens their site:

US Today and GDPR. Click to show enlarged in a new tab.

In case you are not from the EU, you can see their “European Experience” here: https://eu.usatoday.com/

In my subjective personal opinion, that statement raises a question about the users outside the EU, mainly those in USA Today’s home field USA? Does the statement shown in that European Experience statement mean that OK, we have to offer European users somewhat better privacy and data protection but for rest of the world, we’ll just continue as before?

Whatever the answer is, I’ll take my hat off to USA Today for clearly complying with GDPR. The same cannot be said from some other news sites. I’ve been used to getting my daily dose of US news from both coasts from the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News. To do that now, since Friday, I need to to use a VPN client and mask my European location by using a US-based server. When attempting to use those two sites from a European IP, or any other site from Tronc, Inc (http://www.tronc.com/), a simple message is shown:

This is unfortunate. If a major player like Tronc, Inc. chooses to block out European users instead of making some quite basic, simple changes in their data protection and privacy policies, that gives users quite negative impressions, in my opinion.

Tronc is not alone, of course. Websites from small freeware makers to global online gaming sites are now blocking European users rather than complying with GDPR. Users are divided, too; users are mostly understanding that GDPR is giving them better control about how their personal data is used and stored, while some are asking why they need to agree on terms on sites they have been using for years. On Saturday I found a member at my “virtual home” TenForums.com asking why he as an old member had to agree with terms & conditions saying “I don’t get it though. We are not in the EU, why do we have to accept this?”.

I replied reminding him that although TenForums is a European site, most users coming outside USA, The General Data Protection Regulation does not only apply to sites hosted in Europe or European Union. It applies to all sites available to European users. It is absolutely irrelevant if the site is in Burkina Faso, Ecuador, USA, New Zealand or Indonesia; if the site is available to European users, their privacy must be protected.

It will be interesting to see how the world will cope with GDPR. I had never thought that a regulation with its sole purpose to protect privacy of users would wake so controversial opinions among both users and businesses.


Author: Kari Finn

A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.

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