The watchful eye of European Big Brother

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If you operate a small business in Iowa, chances are good your customers Iowans. However if you business has a public website or any online space your business administers, according to the European Union, you are part of the global marketplace thereby subject to EU laws. Setting aside any political outrage you have with this issue, know that your legal culpability is not too great.

Of course for complete legal advice consult with a lawyer but the general concern should be; if European citizens are visiting your website how are you tracking them? Second, if you are tracking them how are you collecting and maintaining their data?

Online privacy and personal information is among the hottest issues in tech today. In Europe is has surpassed “third rail” status and become the hangman's noose. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) basically says citizens have the right to digital anonymity unless they explicitly say otherwise.

So how does this affect a local hardware store in rural Iowa? Well if your website has baked in analytics and tracking you are wading in the GDPR waters. The good news is this law was written to punish Google and Facebook, so if you use Google Analytics to capture online tracking data or frequently review your Facebook statistics have no fear those platforms have already pulled back their analytical offers to be GDPR compliant. Now if you don't know what your website uses to track visitors or if it uses a smaller, start-up tracking service, you better sit-down with whoever setup your website and your lawyer.

The real issue going forward is now that regulation has started to show it's face in the big data world, many of the tools marketers, advertisers, and online retailers took for granted (and truthfully abused) are starting to disappear and lose their punch. Email blast marketing is losing hoards of targets as recipients are being asked to opt-in and recipient data is being thoroughly anonymized. Cross web service data sharing is disappearing as it is now illegal to share data with any third party businesses or services. Consumer purchase data and online ad generation based on browser history is being monitored. Basically all ethically nebulous tricks of the big data game are being monitored or made illegal to protect European citizens. So like it or not, if your website is visible to someone across the pond, your small business might be breaking some digital laws.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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