Sites block EU users before GDPR takes effect

With less than a day until the General Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect, a growing number of companies are taking the nuclear option to ensure compliance: blocking all European users from their servers.

Instapaper, a read-later service owned by the US firm Pinterest, became the latest to disconnect European customers on Thursday. It said the cutoff was temporary while it made the required changes, and told users: “We apologise for any inconvenience, and we intend to restore access as soon as possible.” Pinterest did not respond to a request for comment.

Other companies have taken a more permanent approach. Unroll.me, an inbox management firm, announced it was withdrawing services for EU companies due to an inability to offer its product – which is monetised by selling insights gleaned from reading users’ emails – in a way that was compatible with EU law. “We are truly sorry that we are unable to offer our service to you,” the company told EU users.

Some online games, including Ragnarok Online, have switched off their EU servers.

Other firms have not gone so far as to blame the new regulation but have closed EU operations with convenient timing. Crowdpac, a political fundraising organisation set up by David Cameron’s former “guru” Steve Hilton, announced it was closing its UK wing “for business reasons” until further notice. The company, which was still raising funds in the UK as recently as Sunday, now says it “hopes one day to be back”.

Some see the law as a moneymaking opportunity. One service, GDPR Shield, offers to block EU users from companies’ sites. Its website says it can save companies that are not targeting EU users thousands in legal fees.

“If you don’t have an in-house legal team, complying with the law requires you to consult with a lawyer specialising in data protection law,” GDPR Shield tells potential customers. “In addition, you’re at risk of vindictive reporting from no-win-no-fee legal firms.”

Klout, a social media analytics service, and Super Monday Night Combat, an online game, will shut down on Friday. Lithium, the owner of Klout, said: “Klout no longer made sense as a standalone service. The upcoming deadline for GDPR implementation simply expedited our plans to sunset Klout.”

 

 

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