U.S. news sites block European readers over GDPR concerns

A number of U.S. news sites have blocked European readers over concerns related to the EU’s new data privacy laws, TechCrunch reports. The guidelines, known as General Data Protection Regulation, went into effect on Friday. The law requires internet companies that collect personal data, including news organizations, to follow strict guidelines regarding how they handle the data.

The penalties for failing to comply are strict enough that Tronc decided to block all European readers from its websites rather than risk being found non-compliant. Tronic owns a number of major newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. Lee Enterprises also blocked European readers from some of its websites, such as the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

While Tronc has decided that its European readerbase isn’t worth the hassle, at least not in the short-term, most other U.S. news sites took a different approach. Several sites, such as USA Today, offered a GDPR-complaint version of their site. Others requested that users opt-in to data collection. NPR even went so far as to offer a plaintext version of the site for users who did not want to agree to its terms regarding user data.

The majority of Tronc’s sites and newspapers serve a U.S. audience, so this move likely doesn’t affect a majority of their readers. Some of the company’s holdings are large enough to attract an international following, however. This has left some European readers frustrated with Tronc’s decision and some EU officials have openly criticized the company’s failure to create compliant versions of their websites. For the past few weeks, numerous businesses have been bombarding email accounts with privacy updates regarding this matter. The rules were adopted in April of 2016, giving companies two years to prepare for the changes.

It didn’t just fall from heaven,” Andrea Jelinek, chairwoman of the European Data Protection Board, said in a recently released statement reported by the New York Times. “Everyone has had plenty of time to prepare.”

While Tronc’s decision has angered many of its European readers, the move probably makes sense from a business standpoint. The penalties for violating the GDPR can reach as high as 4 percent of a company’s globe revenue, so it makes sense that some may prefer to err on the side of caution if they aren’t certain that all of their sites are compliant with EU regulations.

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