GDPR – Complying and Access

You blog, and someone reads your blog and comments, or reads your newsletter.

Or you sell something online – a pen, a book, a wooly hat, an iPhone case – and you get paid. You have the name, address, email address, and maybe some other information such as birthday or the customer’s liking for woolly hats. Surely, none of it is the kind of stuff that the framers of GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulations) are really worried about.

They are worried about people who have other people’s ‘sensitive personal information’ (racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership, genetic data, biometric data, data concerning health, or data concerning a natural person’s sex life or sexual orientation).

What happens in reality is that we all get swept up in the dust storm and have to comply. In the pre-digital age, whenever governments brought out these kinds of regulations, businesses went to see their lawyers and the printers rubbed their hands with glee at the thought of all those reprints they would be asked to do – of brochures and leaflets and notices – all the stuff that would be necessary.

But in the digital age where we do it all ourselves, I just see a pain in the behind for thousands and thousands and thousands of bloggers and small businesses when it is surely blindingly obvious that 99.9% of what is intended to be protected has nothing at all to do with those bloggers or those small businesses.

Double Opt-In In the Age Of GDPR

If your original opt-in was a double opt-in (the recipient signed up with an email address on your site and also confirmed their desire by clicking on the link that arrived in their email inbox) and then you don’t need to get consent again.

Double opt-in has been around for a while and the reason for it and the reason I say you ‘have’ to be double opt-in is that if you are not, then some malicious person could sign up with someone else’s email and you would be sending newsletters to someone who never requested them.

Emailing someone who didn’t request you to email them has been outlawed under the regulations (Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations) for a long while. GDPR highlights it and makes the penalties stronger.

Steps To Take For GDPR

For the benefit of those who need GDPR advice – this is my take on what you need if you have a website.

You need a page that sets out your privacy policy policy, a page that sets out your cookie policy (or a section about cookies in your privacy policy page) and a means for your visitors to signify cookie consent or an indication of where to go to find out more.

If your site is built on WordPress, you are in luck because the very latest version (4.9.6) practically does it all for you, at least gives you the framework to write out your privacy policy statement. If you haven’t already got a page setting out your privacy policy then go to your admin dashboard, and in Settings, you will see a section named ‘Privacy’ – click on that and choose the ‘Or: create new page’ WordPress will do that for you and set out the sections you need to fill in. You still have to read up on the GDPR requirements (who collects the info, what kind of info, etc.) but the bones of it are there.

Next, you need a page in which you set out your cookie policy. OR, you can put the cookie policy in a section in the Privacy Policy page. The contents are pretty standard, so find a good site (the BBC, Marks and Spencer, WordPress, Google, etc.) and crib the bits you need.

Finally, you need a cookie consent form. You can no longer tell people that you deem their consent by them continuing to use your site, or maybe you can, but it’s easy to be safe rather than sorry. You need a little banner that people can click to say they are alright with cookies. They don’t have to click it – you just have to have it there for them to click. I have tried various plugins and the one I use on our e-commerce site is called EU Cookie Law (by Alex Moss and others). It is in the WordPress repository and it is free. You can style it as you want and place it bottom right, top right etc – and link it to your Cookie Policy page.

Access

Is this the intended consequence of GDPR? Go to a page on a website and be confronted with a popover that hides the content. Don’t click ‘I accept’ for cookies. Instead click on ‘more info’ or ‘preferences’ or whatever is there.

Say ‘No’ to cookies and refresh the page you want to see.

Be confronted again with the same popover that hides the content. You know what to do this time because you have been here before. Click ‘Accept’ because there is no other way to read the article.

So what we have here is a kind of paywall that says ‘If you want to play, do it my way.’ Or to put it another way, it is forcing consent to cookies as the price of reading the content. Surely that is against the spirit of the GDPR?

One thing – Google penalises sites that use popups that cover content – maybe that will nudge webmasters to stop using popups that require consent as the price of access.

Voting Today – No Brexit Tomorrow

As the Independent reports

Across England, more than 4,000 seats are being contested in around 150 councils – including all 32 London boroughs, as well as every ward in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.

Mayoral elections are taking place in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Watford and the Sheffield City region, but there are no polls in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The hope of those against Brexit is that sufficient numbers will vote for the Liberal Democrats and the Greens (both of which parties support Britain staying in the EU) to make those in power think twice about heading for the EU exit door.

Why did the chicken continue to cross the road even when it knew disaster lay ahead?