Day One Failure

Well, I did not write anything the last few days after proclaiming I would… not a good start.


GDPR is dumb. Honestly, it is extremely dumb. It is intended as a mechanism to enforce that large online companies respect the privacy of their users, but it just is not necessary.

The working example goes like this - I use Facebook and I wrongly expect that Facebook is treating my data as private, but a news article comes out and righly points out that Facebook exists to make money and they have been selling my data all along. GDPR is a set of regulations aimed at making that process more transparent - if Facebook is going to sell my data, I need to agree to those terms and they must provide mechanisms for me to remove my data from their system upon request.

Now, I am not a libertarian, but I am in favor of the free markets deciding things like this in this one particular case. Users are opting in to using Facebook. We are not talking about service providers of necessary services which hold monopoly share of the market (think water, electricity, ISPs, etc). If your electricity provider was selling your private information, then that would be a problem because there are no other options - if you live in Southern California, you probably have SCE providing you electricity and you have zero alternatives. However, if you are using Facebook and they are sharing your private data, you can delete all your private data from Facebook and move on to a competitor’s service. You do not like that Google sells our your browsing information? Use DuckDuckGo and Firefox. Find a competitor who acts more aligned with your wishes. This is how the free market works.

GDPR puts a lot of undue strain on startups. We have been discussing this a lot at my job, but the gist is that estimating the amount of effort that is required to implementing GDPR requirements is largely unknown. It will likely be some percentage of the overall work, but that amount seems extremely high for most startups.

If you are a startup and you have exactly a half-million dollars on hand, but you have to devote 1/5 of that to supporting GDPR instead of the product you are trying to build, then that is a problem. Additionally, I work at a firm that does software development by contract - trying to explain to the CEO of a startup that their budget needs to be X% larger than they planned in order to support GDPR (something which will never show value to them) is impossible.

CEO: “Okay, what do we get by supporting GDPR?”

Me: “You gain the ability to work with EU users.”

CEO: “But functionally - what is it?”

Me: “It gives your users the ability to completely delete their data from your systems; it makes it legally impossible for you to sell their data without users agreeing to it; it makes you liable for data breaches under good faith; and it makes you hire a DPO to handle compliance monitoring and reporting.”

CEO: “… I don’t want any of that.”

Me: “I get it, but if you want to do business in the EU, this is the law.”

CEO: “… We’re just a startup; I don’t even know if the doors will be open next year… why would I agree to any of this?”

Me: “You wouldn’t… and California is enacting basically the same thing, soon.”


Users Are Stupid

The reason that GDPR was adopted is because users are stupid. A majority of users opt into systems either not fully understanding the ramifications or assuming, incorrectly, that the company had their best interests at heart with regard to privacy.

Essentially, if a user created a Facebook account under the impression that their data would remain private, they are naive or stupid.

If you are not paying for it, you are not the customer; you are the product being sold.

In the case of Facebook, users should sign-up with the understanding that anything they contribute to the site will be sold and/or public information. This understanding should shape how users use these systems, but it does not for a vast number of users.

A Stupid Solution for Stupidity

In the end, nothing has changed. GDPR puts a financial burden on the service provider and users are no safer than they were before - Facebook still sells your data, but now you have a very shiny “delete all data” button.

The EU took the problem of users shooting themselves in the foot and made a law that forced all gun makers to build systems into their guns that disabled them from firing straight down… but users are more than happy to pick up their foot and fire.