One year later, the harms of Europe’s data-privacy law

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect just over a year ago, has resulted in a broad array of consequences that are expensive, unintended, or both. Alec Stapp reports at Truth on the Market, with more discussion at Marginal Revolution:

GDPR can be thought of as a privacy “bill of rights.” Many of these new rights have come with unintended consequences. If your account gets hacked, the hacker can use the right of access to get all of your data. The right to be forgotten is in conflict with the public’s right to know a bad actor’s history (and many of them are using the right to memory hole their misdeeds). The right to data portability creates another attack vector for hackers to exploit.

Meanwhile, Stapp writes, compliance costs for larger U.S.-based firms alone are headed toward an estimated $150 billion, “Microsoft had 1,600 engineers working on GDPR compliance,” and an estimated 500,000 European organizations have seen fit to register data officers, while the largest advertising intermediaries, such as Google, appear to have improved their relative competitive position compared with smaller outfits. Venture capital investment in Euro start-ups has sagged, some large firms in sectors like gaming and retailing have pulled out of the European market, and as of March more than 1,000 U.S.-based news sites were inaccessible to European readers.

More in Senate testimony from Pinboard founder Maciej Ceglowski via Tyler Cowen:

The plain language of the GDPR is so plainly at odds with the business model of surveillance advertising that contorting the real-time ad brokerages into something resembling compliance has required acrobatics that have left essentially everybody unhappy.

The leading ad networks in the European Union have chosen to respond to the GDPR by stitching together a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of consent,a mechanism whereby a user wishing to visit, say, a weather forecast is first prompted to agree to share data with a consortium of 119 entities, including the aptly named “A Million Ads” network. The user can scroll through this list of intermediaries one by one, or give or withhold consent en bloc, but either way she must wait a further two minutes for the consent collection process to terminate before she is allowed to find out whether or it is going to rain.

This majestically baroque consent mechanism also hinders Europeans from using the privacy preserving features built into their web browsers, or from turning off invasive tracking technologies like third-party cookies,since the mechanism depends on their being present.

For the average EU citizen, therefore, the immediate effect of the GDPR has been to add friction to their internet browsing experience along the lines of the infamous 2011 EU Privacy Directive (“EU cookie law”) that added consent dialogs to nearly every site on the internet.

On proposals to base legislation in the United States on similar ideas, see Roslyn Layton and Pranjal Drall, Libertarianism.org. [cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]

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