Since May of this year, we’ve all been deluged by privacy notifications and innumerable cookie acceptance buttons.
This is because the European Union, with their legislation of epic proportions, (said to contain 56,321 words) has come into force. Designed to ensure Data Privacy for EU Citizens and the choice to opt in or out of personal data usage, you will have heard about it.
It’s called GDPR – General Data Protection Regulation.
On the face of it and following on from the revelations regarding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, this appears to be a good thing.
But is it?
Apart from the annoyance of having to click yes/accept so you can actually get onto the website you want, or to keep receiving interesting e-mails, how is it affecting the rest of us?
The EU after all only makes up 24% of global trade, yet surprisingly, GDPR is causing some very far-reaching and very real ramifications.
Data privacy is something we all have at the back of our minds.
Some of us are more cavalier about it than others, but when you boil it down to the core issues, do you really know who’s looking through your digital data?
Do you know how much money they are making from it? And how do you know if you are being unduly influenced by what is being targeted at you?
It might not simply be the Russians trying to influence things…
You don’t open up your wallet or purse to any stranger, (unless you are bit weird…) yet each time you browse, without a VPN, on any of your devices, that’s pretty much exactly what you are doing.
You’re exposing your demographic, your family photo album, your dirty laundry (that could be literally and metaphorically), your likes and dislikes, plus any ‘private’ online searches that you wouldn’t confide in with anyone.
All data now originating from the EU however, (made up of 28 countries) that’s either being stored or will be stored in the future, must be/have been obtained by consent, freely given.
The use of the word ‘freely’ is important. Facebook omitted this when they rolled out their GDPR compliance tools, and it’s the reason complaints have been filed against them. They were likened to North Korea with their aggressive ‘take it or leave it’ compliance message that clearly breached GDPR.
Consent should be informed as to what is being consented to, and the information regarding consent should be unambiguous.
Which all sounds promising.
Yet according to Forbes, GDPR is having a negative effect.
Because they can’t afford the cost of compliance for GDPR, which is estimated to cost the US economy around $75-150 billion.
Websites and companies are censoring themselves due to unrealistic fines should there be a GDPR data breach. The fine is an eye-watering 4% of global turnover or $20,000,000 whichever is greater, and yes this includes accidental breaches. Facebook could be one of the first to have to pay for this.
These restrictions and censorship, some argue, are going to lead to less innovation, less diversity, less freedom, and why can’t EU gamers join in with American ones!?
Plus, will this data privacy legislation spread beyond Europe? Will the end result be even more censorship because of the costs?
What’s going to happen?
For some big global corporations that have been illegally harvesting data for their algorithms, GDPR might rein them in, but that will depend upon the strength of those policing it.
(Let’s see how Facebook fare.)
However, some feel this could be the start of what has been called ‘the Balkanization of the internet’, where the internet is walled off into global zones for economic, political and socio-political reasons.
Which could result in less freedom and less access.
Which is why it’s even more important that you look after your own privacy and freedoms on the internet, and not leave it up to governments.
It’s time to start using a VPN if you don’t already.
Using a VPN is no longer the domain of the internet geeks and the gaming aficionados, it’s now becoming an essential tool for everyone.
It’s a tool that prevents you being spied upon, keeps your data private, and gives you access to the sites that governments and legislators are either knowingly or unknowingly, putting out of your reach.
(Let’s not forget that a VPN also gives you unlimited access to Netflix while you are on holiday!)
However, it’s certainly an interesting turn of events when attempts to secure data privacy in one area of the globe, are actually leading to censorship and blocked websites in another.