There was an uneasy feeling in my waters, as my nan used to say.

Every day there were more and more emails flooding my inbox from companies I had never heard of, had visited once 15 years ago, or use daily to tell me that "we have updated our privacy policy". It became a national new story with some business trying to make light of it with quirky clickbait subject lines.

The impending GDPR deadline was away when I saw this.

Wow! @theawesomer that is both an ugly piece of design as well as being heavy handed, and entirely unnecessary. way to go with that little #GDPR boo boo. pic.twitter.com/Nfph1fvLy1
— Andy Parker (@theavangelist) May 20, 2018

I knew at that moment the web, the very internet itself was about to become a mess, regressing decades to a version of itself that frankly, sucked.

I see a post-GDPR web where every site begins with a splash page. It's the same as late 90s except with less Flash animation and more signing your life away to access content.
— Andy Parker (@theavangelist) May 20, 2018

Ladies and Gentleman, please welcome back to the screen - splash pages

Two key events occurred in the last 10 years that have had a dramatic impact on the way we design for the web, both were for the good of us all but sadly both were completely misinterpreted and have left us in a trail of messy design and delivery of content ever since.

We agreed splash pages were bad

The first was Google made a decision to penalise websites that used splash pages to gate content. Here's a now ancient article by Moz on how to convince your clients they shouldn't have a splash page from 2006 https://moz.com/blog/how-to-convince-a-client-they-dont-need-a-splash-page

This was of course then considered gospel by all those SEO companies. Within a few months sites that had splash pages were relieved of their obtrusive front doors.

The web was a far better experience for it.

The cookie law that never was

The second was ICO. (Information Commissioner's Office) introducing the cookie law. The result wasn't the ability to no longer be tracked by advertising companies from one site to the next as you enjoy the wonderful world wide web.

Instead we've been blighted by dire implementations of informed consent and over exaggerated cookie banners we have to dismiss upon every visit but on the whole have been buried in the bottom right corner (thanks to that bit of lazy psychology) where we can ignore them easily.

We are right back to square one

To this day, the cookie law has never been adhered to. No criminal actions have been taken against non-compliant businesses and for good reason - it is impossible to police the internet.

The UK government discovered this quickly in 2018 when trying to push through a bill that would force all websites producing adult content to require age verification for entry.

It doesn't scale to the borderless world wide web.

7C4E9017 37F9 40Be 9Dd1 Bb926C1E17F4 Privacy Policy Memes

Image by Chelsea Victoria

The web was never meant to be closed, walled gardens

I am watching great velocity the number sites we frequent for news, entertainment, inspiration, business tools and everything between being closed off to us unless we agree to being watched, recorded and our behaviour being sold to 3rd parties.

This is not what GDPR was for, it is not what GDPR was protecting us from, and it was most certainly not what the web was designed to do.

Allow people to freely access your content

In the spirit of progressive enhancement in design I have always tried to work with businesses to produce site architectures that allows you to access content freely with the option to enhance your experience by enabling certain features.

What is being forced on us instead is a binary choice - accept the terms and enjoy everything or don't accept the terms and enjoy nothing.

This is not the web we should be providing people.

Over the last 5 days here has been my experience of the world wide web.

Screenshot 20180527 090025

Huffington Post blocking access unless you accept terms

Screenshot 20180527 090046

Schmoop blocking access unless you accept terms

Screenshot 20180529 143453

Last.fm haven't gone full hog yet, but their updated cookie banner makes life very hard

Screenshot 20180529 213911

bodybuilding.com blocking access unless you accept terms

Screenshot 20180529 215652

polygon.com blocking access unless you accept terms

Screenshot 20180530 085530

kotaku.com blocking access unless you accept terms

Screenshot 20180530 085706

leeds-live.co.uk blocking access unless you accept terms

You think that's bad, wait until you see Tumblr

It gets worse. Thanks to @Blokatt for grabbing this gif of what dirty dark merky realities hide behind Tumblr (I know I won't be using it anymore).

Nice try, Tumblr. pic.twitter.com/J4VHCrGxOc
— blokatt (@blokatt) May 25, 2018

Why has GDPR been delivered so badly?

I think there's a simple answer to this. Nobody ready the manual.

Even last week ICO. tweeted that the May date was never a deadline, it has never been expressed as a deadline but instead a start date for organisations to operate differently when it comes to the protection and safety of citizens of the web.

Doesn't that sound better?

I think so.

There are a lot of things that GDPR should have enabled us all to do easily and better, my favourite being the right to be forgotten.

It is now a European law that you can request any business to destroy all records of your existence to them without any need for justification.

That's not exclusive to the use of the internet either.

Fortunately the world wide web has no borders. The misunderstanding of this law and its implementation have affected the globe, with American site owners now struggling to figure out how they trade with Europe, news outlets blocking freedom of access to information and most publishing companies (especially Bauer and Gizmodo Media Network as you see above) making a complete dogs dinner of their online real estate.

If you are designing for the web please don't do this

That's all I ask. It was never meant to be this way. What really bugs me is that not a single designer has looked at this and come up with a better solution, like allowing people to tell you they do want to be tracked, rather than the other way around.

My only hope is that in a few months time all of these sites will discover their advertising revenues have crashed because people are bouncing out when they see that screen, scared of what will happen to their date if they say yes.

Update

A few hours after this was originally posted this story was published, seems like I'm not the only one unhappy about the binary options for using services lawsuits are being filed already against Facebook and Google stating that a ban on services if you do not agree to terms is not legal.

https://www.kitguru.net/tech-news/featured-tech-news/damien-cox/facebook-and-google-hit-with-lawsuits-after-allegedly-breaching-gdpr/


Thoughts from Andy Parker published 30th May 2018