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European-Style Data Protection Laws Give Internet Users More Information about Who’s Using Their Information and Why


By Charles Miller

The European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a far-reaching law, but it’s probably the best attempt so far to address the societal changes resulting from the explosion of data-gathering abilities made technically possible by the Internet and mobile devices.

People on this side of the Atlantic Ocean are likely to have a negative impression of GDPR because it has been responsible for an explosion of extremely annoying pop-up notifications on thousands of websites they frequent. Since the law went into effect last year, I have had to close several thousand pop-ups saying “This web site uses cookies…” It is a requirement of GDPR that websites notify all visitors to a site if it uses cookies to track the user.

A more welcome example of the changes GDPR is bringing to the EU is the right of citizens to know just how websites use the personal data they collect from visitors. For example, and this is entirely hypothetical, if an EU citizen applies for and is turned down for life insurance, he has a right to know why. Before GDPR, the company could just say he did not fit a profile, but now it must be specific about the collected data that was used.Under GDPR, the insurance company would have to reveal “Our algorithm found the GPS tracking from your cell phone showed you made 23 visits to addresses in Amsterdam’s red light district last year, staying an average of 43 minutes, confirmed with facial recognition, and your credit card records showed only two purchases for condoms last year, Trojan, 3-pack, size…” You get the idea.

From the vast quantities of very accurate personal data collected about all of our movements and spending habits, governments, advertisers, healthcare providers, and others make a lot of assumptions that may or may not be accurate.

A lot of people hope that GDPR will prompt companies to reevaluate the need to use so much personal data about us and perhaps cut back on some of their most egregious invasions of personal privacy. Before you write to your lawmakers advocating more laws like GDPR in your country, please stop to look at the situation with my hometown newspaper.

The management of the website for the Marshall, Texas, News Messenger decided it was too much trouble to comply with GDPR and no trouble to block out all access to their site from users in Europe. If the Mexican Republic were to pass a stringent law guaranteeing that Mexican citizens have the same rights as EU citizens, well, Google and Facebook might decide it is too costly to comply with the Mexican law and simply block out all users in Mexico.

If this ever happens, just remember it is always about money. In 2010, Google pulled out of China rather than agree to the censorship demands of the Chinese government. By 2017, Google was feeling the loss of that money and was reportedly working in secret with the communist government.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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