The GDPR: US news sites block EU visitors

Several major US news sites are currently unavailable in most European countries, as two media conglomerates have opted to avoid the compliance requirements of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times are among the affected newspapers. Both are owned by Tronc, Inc., which has put out a statement on all of its websites telling EU visitors that “[w]e are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to the EU market.”

Website unavailable to EU

Tronc’s news sites prevent anyone in the EU from accessing content

Lee Enterprises, which owns 46 regional newspapers, has also stopped EU residents from visiting its sites. The message carried on its sites reads: “We recognise you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore cannot grant you access at this time.”

Not in the spirit of the GDPR

The GDPR doesn’t stop US organizations from providing content to EU residents or from collecting their data. What it does do is introduce strict rules on how personal data should be processed and stored.

However, it seems that Tronc and Lee Enterprises decided that the costs of implementing the GDPR’s requirements and the risks of falling foul of them outweighed the benefits. Their sites are all regional news outlets that presumably get little traffic from the EU, so they presumably reasoned that few people would be affected.

But many people are affected, and they are rightly angry. There are millions of Americans living or travelling abroad that want to keep up with local news. There are also many Europeans who either seek out or stumble upon articles in the affected sites. Blocking content from these people goes against what makes the Internet so popular, and it’s not in the spirit of the GDPR. The EU intended for the Regulation to strengthen individuals’ rights and freedoms concerning their personal data. This hardly means having their access to certain sites cut off altogether.

Fingers crossed, this EU blackout is a temporary measure as Tronc and Lee Enterprises find a way to comply with the GDPR. If that wasn’t the plan, they might be forced to change their minds given the negative reaction in the news and on social media.

Need help with GDPR compliance?

GDPR compliance has been a major headache for organizations on both sides of the Atlantic. If you’re among the large contingent that is only coming to the Regulation now, you might be panicking. However, it’s important to stay calm and remember that you’re likely to receive leniency if you can demonstrate that you’re taking steps to comply with the GDPR.

You can get all the help you need on our website. We offer books, training courses, and webinars to help you understand the GDPR. We can also help you implement the Regulation’s requirements via our gap analysis tools, toolkits, and consultancy services.

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