GDPR Shutdown for Some American Companies

The start date for the General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) was 25th May 2018 and almost all business and other organisations affected were well prepared.

But some went a little mad instead.

The GDPR rules are intended to give consumers more choice over how they are communicated with, better protection of data held by organisations and more openness in the communications.

But, dozens of websites shut down their activities completely, others insisted users agree to new terms of service, and everyone’s inboxes have been flooded with emails begging them to agree to stay on mailing lists.  Quite often the emails have been from companies we didn’t even know had our details.

Margot James, the digital minister said that businesses would now have to prove they had been given permission to use an individual’s information, including contact details.

“Except in certain, limited instances, organisations now must demonstrate they have our explicit consent to process our sensitive personal data. Generally, we’ve also given greater control to the British public over how their data is used. No doubt like me you’ll have received a flurry of emails in recent weeks from the organisations currently holding your data, and perhaps some you weren’t even aware did, asking for you to re-submit this consent.”

Many American companies have been unsure what to do and opted for simply closing their websites to European users.

  • Instapaper has blocked European users
  • me says European users cannot use its products
  • com is blocking European users
  • The Los Angeles Times
  • The New York Daily News
  • The Chicago Tribune

A little planning would have removed the need for such precipitate action, but hopefully they will open their doors to Europeans again soon.

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Facebook Conversations Tested

The New Statesman Newspaper carried out an interesting experiment to test whether or not Facebook was listening in to people’s conversations.

Six staff members picked one or more subjects that are not part of their lives and which they had never searched for online or bought anything relevant to the subject etc.

Then they each read out a script (with their phone switched on) designed to point out these subjects in their lives and see if Facebook then started advertising relevant items to them.

The subjects were things such as a vegetarian chatting about her desire for Domino’s Meat Feast pizza.

The most interesting was a lady named Lizzie whose lines included “I just wish there was an app that would sort it all out for you… some kind of contraception app”. When she opened the Facebook app the following  morning, she was presented with an advert for Natural Cycles, the first app ever certified for contraception in Europe.


However, there’s a psychological phenomenon called the Frequency Illusion (or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon). It states that If you hear a new word or phrase for the first time and consciously have a conversation about it, finding out what it means, suddenly, for the next few days, you’ll see it constantly.

If someone says to you ‘when was the last time you saw a yellow car?’ you’ll see three in the next two hours.

For the other five people in the experiment (including the vegetarian), Facebook did not show anything even vaguely relevant to the subject’s spoken about. It’s just a statistical effect that some people will experience Facebook offering relevant and unexpected adverts at times that can seem spookily accurate.

Facebook are very clear that they do not listen in to conversations.

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Australian Fake Kidnappings

This fake kidnapping ploy started in Taiwan with Chinese gangs preying on Taiwanese students and the gangs involved have recently started up in Australia, targeting overseas students.

The parents of the ‘kidnaped’ student get a call saying their son or daughter has been kidnapped and the kidnappers seem to know about the student, thereby convincing the parents who then try to find the money to pay the ransom.

Their attempts to contact their son or daughter fail.

What has happened is that the gangs started by targeting overseas students (especially Chinese students) where the parents will have trouble travelling to the University.

They learned what they could about their targets initially then contacted the targets – claiming to be the authorities, telling them their life is in danger and they could be deported or imprisoned.

They learn more about the target so as to be able to convince the parents and they warn the target not to contact anyone or talk with anyone and to ignore phone calls, emails etc. as these could be false.

This is a nasty business as the parents will be terrified and pay a ransom and the target will be terrified to talk to anyone and in fear of prosecution.

The official advice is that anyone who receives such threatening calls they should contact the authorities immediately and certainly not just pay a ransom.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

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GDPR has Landed

GDPR is the latest EU regulation intended to give consumers better protection for their personal information held by government, businesses and any other organisations.

And today’s the day it becomes Law.

GDPR may make a worthwhile difference for consumers as it puts pressure (and the threat of large penalties) on businesses to use clear concise language, make it clear what they want your data for and exactly how it will be used, ensure they have your consent for such messages and give you an easy route to making them delete all personal information.

You’ve probably had requests recently in the post or online from businesses wanting to stay in touch with you after today. This is because from today they have to show that you chose to allow them to contact you – not just assume it was OK as often happened in the past.

Plus many are taking the opportunity to revamp their policies over Marketing messages etc.



















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