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GDPR cuts European access to hot internet content

The new European GDPR data protection regulation is having an unintended side effect: It is reducing European’s access to content coming from outside of the European Union. Some publishers are choosing to completely cut out EU surfers so they don’t have to worry about complying with GDPR regulations on collecting private data.

GDPR and your individual data

GDPR mandates a battery of changes in how companies can collect data on individuals. In particular, individuals have to consent to their data being collected, they have the right to see their data, and they have the right to be forgotten and this data erased. In addition, companies need to be able to say how this data is being used and be prepared for a data breach.

If you’re European, forget about it

The GDPR has driven European companies crazy over the past year and some American publishers have a simple solution: Just say no. Go to an American site such as the LA Times from within the EU and you will get the following note:

A quick check found that three of the top ten USA papers blocked readers simply on the basis of the GDPR restrictions and their geo-location. Other sites banning Europeans include the NY Daily News and the Chicago Tribune. This is just the top of the list – there are more publications doing this.

Try “data collection lite”

Other publications such as NPR or the Washington Post have a “data lite” variant where they funnel European visitors into a special channel and supposedly collect a more limited amount of data on them which meets the GDPR restrictions. Two thoughts to ponder – First, there is no limitation of content based on your location. Second, it does make you wonder what kind of information they are collecting on the rest of those Americans.

News on your location

These news sites – and about every other site on the internet – can track your location due to the IP address of your device. This set of numbers enables the data packets to find their way to your device and are an unavoidable part of the internet. They also let companies track down your location to a few city blocks which is useful for directing advertisements your direction and building an exhaustive profile on you and your interests.

Just move your device (virtually) to another location

The simple workaround to this problem is to change or conceal your IP address. This workaround applies whether you are on a Windows, Apple, or Android device. There are three major methods: The TOR onion browser, a VPN, and VPN Proxy.

Cry, cry, cry with the TOR Onion

The TOR onion browser is a free but incomplete solution as it routes your internet communication over a series of sites and you don’t have any control over where these sites are located or where this connection starts. On one connection, you might be routed through the Netherlands and on another you might go through Romania. Both are in the EU.

Another irritant is that some sites will send you a CAPTCHA instead of content when they sense TOR is there. While the alleged use of a CAPTCHA is to verify that you are not a robot, they also might have the underlying motive of annoying you so much with requests to identify pictures of cars, buses, or road signs, that you switch back to a traditional browser – which is easier to track.

Content by proxy can work

A VPN proxy basically adds a forwarding address to the data packets from your computer, pasting this on top of the previous address – and not covering it up or encrypting the contents. The user has to be able to pick the country where the VPN proxy servers are located – in this case, the USA – for this approach to work. Sometimes a proxy is enough, other times not, it depends on the specific type of tracking that the site uses.

A real VPN should do the trick

A full-fledged VPN puts your data packets into its own encrypted envelope and then adds the IP address of the server. You need to be able to select the location of the VPN server – just as with a VPN proxy.

In this case, the choice is to go American. As a secondary benefit, the content and the DNS addresses are also encrypted. When the news is hot, you want to see it. Regardless of where you are.

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As a PR Consultant and journalist, Frink has covered IT security issues for a number of security software firms, as well as provided reviews and insight on the beer and automotive industries (but usually not at the same time). Otherwise, he’s known for making a great bowl of popcorn and extraordinary messes in a kitchen.