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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Is the EU killing the internet?

8 May 2018

There's nothing more dangerous than a group of politicians and bureaucrats working in close concert and with a burning desire to exert their power over the people they are supposed to serve.

We've seen it time and time again, that although such people may honestly believe they're working in the best interests of the rest, their efforts inevitably dissolve into a mess of surveillance, suppression and oppression, with a thick topping of red tape and regulation.

The final effect of such bumble-fookery tends to be that of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and producing a result that makes the original problem look trivial by comparison.

And, around the world, there are no better experts at this than the bone-heads responsible for rules and regulations coming out of the European Union.

In their latest display of sheer lunacy, these fools have implemented a raft of privacy and data-protection laws called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

As is to be expected, the goal of the GDPR is a laudable one -- to ensure that the data provided by members of the public to any website or data-collection/processing service is kept safe and only shared with the permission and knowledge of the submitter.

The GDPR is also designed to ensure continuity and consistency across all member nations of the EU, such that people aren't faced with a raft of different policies and regulations as they interact with services based in different European countries.

Sounds good eh?

Yep... but, as we all know, politicians and bureaucrats are incredibly adept at turning a good idea in to a very bad implementation -- and so it has been with the GDPR.

Anyone violating the GDPR faces huge sanctions in the form of massive fines, up to 20 million Euros or 4% of a company's global annual turnover during the previous financial year -- and that's probably per conviction.

Now you might think "who gives a damn, we're not part of the EU, they can go suck lemons for all I care"... but you could be wrong, very wrong.

The GDPR applies to *anyone* interacting with people in an EU member state, even if that person or company itself does not reside within the EU. Yep, NZ companies fall under that net.

Yeah... but who cares? How are the EU going to enforce their laws in Godzone?

Well one needs only to take a look at recent cases to understand exactly how this could work.

Remember Kim Dotcom? He never stepped foot in the USA... yet he has been the victim of police raids, incarceration and now faces extradition at the behest of the US authorities for allegedly breaking US law.

Change the actors here... imagine that instead of the US government we're talking the EU, and imagine that instead of Kim Dotcom, we're talking about the director of an NZ company which is found in breach of the GDPR by an EU court.

Yes... this *is* a worry for everyone who collects or processes data from citizens of an EU member nation so naturally, companies around the world have started to react.

With the GDPR due to come into effect in just a few days, a growing number of websites are now placing geo-fencing around their operations -- to prevent people from EU nations from accessing them.

Yes, the fear is that any breach of the GDPR in respect to data held by people from EU states, however unintentional, could result in huge financial penalties. Hence it is simply easier (and safer) to deny those people access to your online presence.

Here is a report about one piece of technology designed to keep EU residents safely out of your systems.

If this type of blocking becomes commonplace by sites which fear falling foul of the GDPR, it will once again prove that the wooden-heads in the EU's halls of power are incredibly myopic and lack awareness of how "the real world" works.

Imagine the huge harm this would do to the scope of internet sites available to EU residents and how that would affect their ability to take full advantage of a tool that has become the single most powerful repository of knowledge and the most effective communications medium now known to mankind.

The EU regulators might need to learn that sometimes, the cure is far worse than the complaint.

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