Weekly review

Overwhelmed and confused by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation

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Source: Christoph Schmid

Like you, we have been inundated all week by emails informing us about the European Union’s “General Data Protection Regulation”, a landmark online-privacy law that takes effect today. Unlike you, we’ve even had to send some of those emails, because we at Handelsblatt Global and at the German-language mothership also have, and need, some of your data — to send email newsletters like this one, for example.

All in all, the regulation is of course a step forward. We were collectively on the way to losing control over the data that pertain to our lives. But as of this week, as the New York Times enthuses, Europe has at last become the “world’s leading tech watchdog”, because even internet firms in America, Asia and elsewhere have to abide by the new rules if they have European customers, or risk huge fines.

Europe as world leader in something: Now there, at last, is a headline Europeans have been waiting for.

Sebastian Matthes, Handelsblatt’s digital guru, begs to differ, in this scathing takedown of the Regulation. As so often when bureaucrats go after some social ill — in this case, data abuse — the lawmakers overshot disastrously. They had in mind Google, Facebook, Amazon, and their ilk. Instead, this week they hit hundreds of thousands of small family firms. These are businesses with only a few employees that need to keep and manage some data about their customers. Now they have no easy way to comply with a law vague enough to leave it unclear whether scanning somebody’s business card on your iPhone would already count as a violation.

So here we are, like you, feeling confused and overwhelmed. We have given up reading the new privacy notices. We have also stopped clicking the opt-in buttons to keep receiving newsletters we didn’t know we had ever subscribed to. In that way, the week has been like a low-effort spring cleaning, promising to reduce future clutter in our inboxes.

At the same time, that same inertia probably kept you from opting in to staying on our mailing lists. So this newsletter is likely to be read by a lot fewer people than last week’s. I can’t say I’m happy about that. We were never intending to spam you in the first place. So please pass this along, and tell people to take a minute to sign up again to whichever of our three newsletters they prefer.

You’ll want to, because we have some exciting plans for one of those newsletters come June 18th. But I’ll tell you about that another time.

To contact the author: kluth@handelsblatt.com

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