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Your GDPR questions answered

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You've no doubt heard about GDPR by now. It's a very hot topic in many circles. Lots of experts are weighing in on the best approach to take before the May 25th deadline.

Which reminds me of my favorite joke:

"Do you know a great GDPR expert?”

Yes, I do!

“Could you send me his email address”

No, I'm afraid not.

I wrote about how Invision Community can help with your GDPR compliance back in December. I've seen a lot of posts and topics on GDPR in our community since then.

First, let's get the disclaimer out of the way. I'm a humble programmer and not a GDPR expert or a lawyer. The information here is presented to assist you in making decisions. As always, we recommend you do your own research and if you're in any doubt, book an appointment with a lawyer.

It is also worth mentioning that GDPR is very much a living document with phrases like "legitimate interest" and "reasonable measures". None of these phrases have any real legal definition and are open to interpretation. Some have interpreted them severely, and others more liberally.

GDRP is about being a good steward of the data you store on a user. It's not designed to stop you from operating an engaging web site. There's no need to create stress about users linking to other sites, embedding images, anonymizing IP addresses, and such on your site. These don't impact any data you are storing and are part of the normal operation of how the web works. Be responsible and respectful of your users' data but keep enjoying your community.

Let's have a quick recap on the points we raised in our original blog entry.

Individual Rights

The right to be informed
Invision Community has a built in privacy policy system that is presented to a new user, and existing users when it has been updated.

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What should your privacy policy contain? I personally like the look of SEQ Legal's framework which is available for free.

This policy covers the important points such as which cookies are collected, how personal information is used and so on.

There may be other services out there offering similar templates.

Right to erasure
I personally feel that everyone should listen to "A Little Respect" as it's not only a cracking tune, but also carries a wonderful message.

The GDPR document however relates to the individuals right to be forgotten.

Invision Community allows you to delete members. When deleting members, you can elect to remove their content too. There is an option to keep it as Guest content, thus removing the author as identifiable.

It's worth using the 'keep' option after researching the user's posts to make sure they haven't posted personal information such as where they live, etc.

Emailing and Consent
Invision Community has the correct opt-in for bulk emails on registration that is not pre-checked. If the user checks this option, this is recorded with the member's history. Likewise, if they retract this permission, that action is also recorded.

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When you edit the terms and conditions or privacy policy, all users are required to read it again and opt-in again.

Cookies
A lot of GDPR anxiety seems to revolve around these tiny little text files your browser stores. If you read the GDPR document (and who doesn't love a little light reading) then you'll see that very little has actually changed with cookies. It extends current data protection guidance a little to ensure that you are transparent about which cookies you store.

Invision Community has tools to create a floating cookie opt-in bar, and also a page showing which cookies are stored and why.

This is the page that you'd edit to add any cookies your installation sets (if you have enabled Facebook's Pixel, or Google Analytics for example).

Your GDPR Questions
Now let's look at some questions that have been asked on our community and I'll do my best to provide some guidance that should help you make decisions on how to configure your Invision Community to suit your needs.

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Alan!!

Is the soft opt-in cookie policy enough? What about the IP address stored in the session cookie?
Great question. There's conflicting advise out there about this. The GDPR document states:

Quote

Natural persons may be associated with online identifiers…such as internet protocol addresses, cookie identifiers or other identifiers…. This may leave traces which, in particular when combined with unique identifiers and other information received by the servers, may be used to create profiles of the natural persons and identify them.

The ICO states that session cookies stored for that session only (so they are deleted when the tab / window is closed) are OK as long as they are not used to profile users.

This is re-enforced by EUROPA:

Quote

Cookies clearly exempt from consent according to the EU advisory body on data protection- WP29 include:

  • user‑input cookies (session-id) such as first‑party cookies to keep track of the user's input when filling online forms, shopping carts, etc., for the duration of a session or persistent cookies limited to a few hours in some cases
  • authentication cookies, to identify the user once he has logged in, for the duration of a session
  • user‑centric security cookies, used to detect authentication abuses, for a limited persistent duration
  • multimedia content player cookies, used to store technical data to play back video or audio content, for the duration of a session
  • load‑balancing cookies, for the duration of session
  • user‑interface customisation cookies such as language or font preferences, for the duration of a session (or slightly longer)
  • third‑party social plug‑in content‑sharing cookies, for logged‑in members of a social network.


My feeling is that GDPR isn't really out to stop you creating a functioning website, they are more interested in how you store and use this information.

Thus, I feel that storing a session cookie with an IP address is OK. The user is told what is being stored and instructions are given if they want to delete them.

Given the internet is very much driven by IP addresses, I fail to see how you can not collect an IP address in some form or another. They are collected in access logs deep in the server OS.

Finally, there is a strong legitimate interest in creating a session cookie. It's part and parcel of the website's function and the cookie is not used in any 'bad' way. It just allows guests and members to retain preferences and update "last seen" times to help deliver content.

Do I need to delete all the posts by a member if they ask me to?
We have many large clients in the EU with really impressive and expensive legal teams and they are all unanimous in telling us that there is no requirement to delete content when deleting a user's personal information. The analogy often given is with email: once someone sends you an email you are not obligated to delete that. The same is true with content posted by a user: once they post that content it's no longer "owned" by them and is now out in public.

Ultimately, the decision is yours but do not feel that you have to delete their content. This is not a GDPR requirement.

What about members who haven't validated? They're technically not members but we're still holding their data!
No problem. The system does delete un-validated users and incomplete users automatically for you. You can even set the time delay for deletion in the ACP.

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What about RECAPTCHA? I use this, and it technically collects some data!
Just add that you use this service to your privacy policy, like so:

Quote

Spam Protection
Google reCAPTCHA (Google Inc.)
Google reCAPTCHA is a SPAM protection service provided by Google Inc.
The use of reCAPTCHA is subject to the Google privacy policy and terms of use.

Personal Data collected: Cookies and Usage Data.

Place of processing: United States – Privacy Policy.

I see many companies emailing out asking for members to opt back in for bulk mail, do I need to do this?
Short answer: No.

Since Invision Community 4.0, you can only ever bulk email users that have opted in for bulk emails. There's no way around it, so there's nothing to ask them to opt-in for. They've already done it.

There is a tiny wrinkle in that pre 4.2.7, the opt-in was pre-checked as was the norm for most websites. Moving forward, GDPR asks for implicit consent, so this checkbox cannot be pre-ticked (and isn't in Invision Community 4.2.7 and later). However, the ICO is clear that if the email list has a legitimate interest, and was obtained with soft opt-in, then you don't need to ask again for permission.

What about notifications? They send emails!
Yes they do, but that's OK.

A notification is only ever sent after a user chooses to follow an item. This falls under legitimate interest.

There is also a clear way to stop receiving emails. The user can opt-in and opt-out of email as a notification device at their leisure.

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Do I need to stop blocking embeds and external images?
No. The internet is based on cross-linking of things and sharing information. At a very fundamental level, it's going to be incredibly hard to prevent it from happening. Removing these engaging and enriching tools are only going to make your community suffer.

There's no harm in adding a few lines in your privacy policy explaining that the site may feature videos from Vimeo and Youtube as part of user contributions but you do not need to be worried. As stated earlier, GDPR isn't about sucking the fun out of the internet, it's about being responsible and transparent.

Phew.
Hopefully you've got a better understanding about how Invision Community can assist your GDPR compliance efforts.

The best bit of advice is to not panic. If you have any questions, we'd love to hear them. Drop us a line below.

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