US com­pa­nies block 500 mil­lion Euro­peans rather than deal with GDPR

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE - Nate Lanxon

FOR some of Amer­ica’s big­gest news­pa­pers and on­line ser­vices, it’s eas­ier to block half a bil­lion peo­ple from ac­cess­ing your prod­uct than com­ply with Europe’s new Gen­eral Data Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tion (GDPR). The Los An­ge­les Times, the Chicago Tri­bune, and The New York Daily News are just some telling vis­i­tors that, “un­for­tu­nately, our web­site is cur­rently un­avail­able in most Euro­pean coun­tries”.

With about 500 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in the Euro­pean Union, that’s a hard ban on one-anda-half times the pop­u­la­tion of the US.

Blan­ket block­ing EU in­ter­net con­nec­tions — which will in­clude any U.S. cit­i­zens visit­ing Europe — isn’t lim­ited to news­pa­pers. Pop­u­lar read-it-later ser­vice In­stapa­per says on its web­site that it’s “tem­po­rar­ily un­avail­able for res­i­dents in Europe as we con­tinue to make changes in light of the Gen­eral Data Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tion”.

A&E Tele­vi­sion Net­works has nar­rowed its EU block­ade to limit the dam­age to its au­di­ence. Web­sites for its His­tory and Life­time chan­nels greet the Euro­pean vis­i­tors with a mes­sage that its “con­tent is not avail­able in your area”, whereas the web­site for youth-fo­cused Viceland re­mains ac­ces­si­ble.

“Deny­ing ser­vice to EU cit­i­zens does not ab­solve them of their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” says Ju­lian Saun­ders, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Port, a UK startup sell­ing soft­ware that helps clients con­trol who gets ac­cess to data and cre­ates audit trails to mon­i­tor pri­vacy.

“They still hold data on EU cit­i­zens and there­fore they are re­quired to com­ply and re­spond to sub­ject ac­cess re­quests like ev­ery­one else.”

The news­pa­pers and A&E didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to emailed re­quests for com­ment out­side reg­u­lar of­fice hours in the United States.

Pri­vacy has moved from a niche topic to one of the big­gest headaches for top bosses such as Face­book founder Mark Zuckerberg, who last week was grilled by EU law­mak­ers about how the data of some 87 mil­lion users and their friends may have been shared with a con­sult­ing firm with links to Don­ald Trump’s US pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica whis­tle-blower Christo­pher Wylie was not im­pressed. And it did lit­tle to slow down Aus­trian law grad­u­ate Max Schrems, who made good on his prom­ise to file law­suits against Face­book, the so­cial me­dia gi­ant’s What­sapp and In­sta­gram, as well as Al­pha­bet’s Google. They face four com­plaints, which ac­cuse them of vi­o­lat­ing the EU’S new pri­vacy rules by forc­ing users to agree to new pri­vacy poli­cies.

Politi­cians in Europe last week re­stated its in­flex­i­ble stance on cor­po­rate data re­spon­si­bil­ity — part of the rea­son some ser­vices have de­cided that to shut up shop for EU cit­i­zens, even tem­po­rar­ily, is the lesser of two evils. The other be­ing po­ten­tial fines of up to 4pc of their global an­nual rev­enue.

Speak­ing to re­porters, An­drea Je­linek, who’s in charge of polic­ing GDPR, said: “If there are rea­sons to warn we will warn, if there are rea­sons to rep­ri­mand, we will do that and if we have rea­sons to fine, we are go­ing to fine.”

GDPR “didn’t just fall from heaven,” Je­linek said in an email in re­sponse on Fri­day, adding: “Ev­ery­one had plenty of time to pre­pare.”

While the im­me­di­ate im­pact of GDPR is most read­ily vis­i­ble on the home pages of in­ter­na­tional news­pa­pers and other me­dia out­lets, it’s un­likely to stop there, said Sofie Will­mott, an an­a­lyst for Glob­al­data.

‘‘Re­tail­ers must also be pre­pared to lose a siz­able pro­por­tion of their cus­tomer data­base as sub­scribers ig­nore com­mu­ni­ca­tions to opt in to re­ceiv­ing mar­ket­ing mes­sages or choose to take the op­por­tu­nity to opt out in or­der to de­clut­ter their in­box,” she said.

Face­book founder Mark Zuckerberg

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