Making sense in a post-GDPR blogspace

Making sense in a post-GDPR blogspace

Are you a blogger, flabbergasted by the upcoming GDPR regulation? Read on, it might make sense at the end!

DISCLAIMER: This is not a legal advice. You should seek your own legal counsel on your responsibilities under the GDPR. We cannot be held liable for any advice taken from this article.

So, now that this is out of the way, let’s see what the GDPR is.

What is the GDPR?

“The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (EU) 2016/679 is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU.”

On December 15, 2015, following three years of drafting and negotiations, the European Parliament and Council of the European Union reached an informal agreement on the EU GDPR.

The aims of the GDPR are:

1. To reinforce data protection rights of individuals
2. Facilitate the free flow of personal data in the digital market
3. Reduce the administrative burden.

What that means, in as few words as possible, is that it is a new law/regulation that makes sure the big companies do not abuse our private info for their own shady purposes. And if they do, then there is a common legislation to act upon.

Does GDPR apply to me?

Yes, you have to keep GDPR in mind, when your online business is based in Europe, or you do business with Europeans. GDPR spans B2B and B2C relations, regardless of size. So bloggers fall in the “apply” category as well.

There is some conflict regarding legal entities that do not engage in economic activity (4.18). From our point of view though, even if you do not make any money from your blog, you should still be GDPR compliant as it also states that this includes “partnerships or associations”. Those could mean e.g. your google analytics or facebook like button that makes money for them. So play it on the safe side.

But, I’m not located within the EU!

Your site should be GDPR compliant if even one EU citizen can access it. Unless your site is completely blocked for those Europeans, it still needs to be GDPR compliant. (There is also the question of what happens if this European is not on EU soil. There, it gets complex!)

Is it good?

Yes, it is. It gives some rights on the end user’s private data, back to the end user. If you have ever tried to remove your facebook account (and probably failed miserably), you will be able to do so from 25th of May, 2018 onwards. (YAY!)

So, why is GDPR so bad?

Just like with other laws, the motives are noble, but the actual technical implementation is unclear on many points. For small and specialized businesses, like e.g. a blog, some rules might be difficult to implement and even be counter-productive.

But why does everyone panic?

Have you seen people erasing their blogs and shouting out “THE END IS NEAR”, yet? If not, don’t worry, you will. This is all due to the fines that come with the GDPR.

The legislation states that the fines for not complying are up to €20M or 4% of annual revenue cycle (whichever is bigger). Sure, after seeing this number, you get a panic attack. This is what law firms and assorted “consultants” will tell you if you ask them to handle your case (and pay them of course).

Got your attention? Great! Now, please take notice at the “up to” and the comparison between €20.000.000 and 4% “whichever is bigger”. The case where the 4% of the annual revenue is bigger than 20 million euros is, when the company has an annual revenue of HALF A BILLION euros! This is not your blog they are talking about. These are big corporations that up to now, were abusing your private data to sell ads and produce human behavioral statistics to sell to governments and other big corps.

There is a whole paragraph on fines and between others it mentions, that the fines are analogous to the size of the business and the gravity of the situation. (check it out for yourself on paragraph (148) here)

According to the European Commission, the process of whacking you for non-compliance is as follows:

There is something musical on the non-compliance chart (click to view original site)

So, don’t panic. The legislation is here to make the internet a safer place, not to start the “Bloggers Behind Bars” movement (BBB for short). It is still early and the legislation hasn’t come into effect just yet. The industry will slowly adapt to the legalese and provide actual solutions to the technical problems the new laws introduce.

Of course, that does not mean you do not have to do anything. Au contraire!

What can YOU do to make your blog GDPR compliant

To approach it simply, there are three main things a blogger needs to understand first:

  1. Know your personal data ​- clearly understand what you and your partners capture and process (we are one of those partners).
  2. Be accountable​ – ensure you and your partners are accountable for personal data
  3. Provide transparency & control​ – to your users (in many cases this means asking for consent)

Let’s delve a little deeper.

Under GDPR, personal data is any information relating to an “identifiable person”.

Identifiable information includes such things as a name, ID number, location, ethnicity or political standing. Data doesn’t have to be confidential or sensitive to qualify as “personal”.

For a typical blog, these Personal data would include:

  • Blog post comments data (name, email, IP)
  • Traffic stats plugins/tools such as Google Analytics
  • 3rd party hosted services such as Jetpack, Bloglovin’ and Disqus
  • Email signup forms such as Mailchimp or FeedBurner
  • Contact forms
  • Facebook / instagram / twitter everything (buttons, likes, feeds, whatever)
  • Issues relating to the location of your web host. E.g. data is transferred to servers outside the EU
  • Any plugins that you use will also need to comply with the GDPR rules. As a site owner, it is your responsibility to make sure that every plugin can export/provide/erase user data it collects in compliance with the GDPR rules.

So, you need to make a list of all the data you keep and all the services you are using. Then, make sure you really need that data or stop keeping them. And log everything on your privacy policy (more on the PP later on).

Same goes for the services you use. Make sure they are GDPR-compliant. In case they are not, you must either drop them or make sure they behave to the data they gather, in a GDPR-compliant way by signing a Data Protection Agreement between you and them (DPA). This is needed because you are responsible for all the data you handle (even if they are provided to you by a third party tool).

You still have to get consent for cookies as you did anyway (you did, didn’t you?). But now, GDPR just raised the bar. Instead of simple cookie banners, under GDPR you need to use a consent tool to obtain this cookie consent. Technically, your site should NOT set any cookies before the user gives her consent.

A great (and totally free) consent tool can be found here (or at the links at the bottom of the post).

So, what do I do?

First and foremost, create a privacy policy!

There are tools to help you with this like e.g. this one which allows you to create one privacy policy for free.

The privacy policy is the most important piece for GDPR compliance and, while creating it, you will also discover on which external services you depend on and whether they are GDPR compliant as well.

Then, you will need to make sure you display a privacy notice everytime you gather private data.

Re-request consent from your email list

Another thing you might want to do, is re-request consent from the owners of the email addresses on your email list. Your email list service should provide such functionality.

Contact 3rd party services

For information about their compliance (e.g. Disqus, Jetpack and others). You will need to list any information about 3rd party services in your Privacy Policy.  The tool presented above, does most of the work for you.

We can confirm that InLinkz is fully compliant!

HTTPS

Make sure your site is served over https instead of http. Contact your host if you are not sure on how to go about it. You will need an SSL certificate. Most hosts will be able to provide you one for free. For more techie bloggers, you can check Let’s Encrypt

WordPress plugins

Make sure they are compliant as well (they might manage data in ways you do not want). And of course update as soon as possible.

Check your site for trackers

Trackers are the various techs that are used by services like google or facebook to pull information about your users. So, in chrome, you can install a plugin like Ghostery and confirm that the trackers present in your website, are mentioned in your privacy policy.

And what shouldn’t I keep doing (that I probably do)

  • Auto opt ins! Everyone should have to express their consent (yep, click that box) to opt in.
  • Give away freebies to get email addresses for one purpose then use them for another. If you gained email addresses this way you should go out to re-validate consent or you may be in breach of GDPR. Normally, your GDPR-compliant email-list service already has this functionality.
  • Share data with anyone else who wasn’t declared at the point where data was provided, for example, give your giveaway’s email addresses to other bloggers without having explicit permission from the email address owners.
  • Stop collecting data where not necessary, for example, contact form/comments.

“What about YOU?”, you say!

InLinkz by nature is a consent based platform, users specifically give consent to enter campaigns and the data they provide is only ever shared with the owner of the campaign. So InLinkz acts as a Data Processor on behalf of the customer (Data Controller).

What have we done so far

  • Contact: You can now contact us directly via privacy@inlinkz.com to discuss any specific concerns
  • New Privacy Policy: We have rolled out a new GDPR compliant privacy policy (which is easy to understand, too)
  • New Data Processing Agreement: Since we store data in the USA (in an EU Privacy Shield-Compliant facility) we will be updating our agreement with EU customers detailing how we process their data
  • Right to be forgotten: As it has always been, you can request for all your data to be removed. For linkup hosts, you already have the power to delete entrants if they exercise this request to you directly.
  • Consent: Improved the ability to obtain additional consent via checkboxes in the Add Link page.
  • 3rd Parties: Helping customers understand the 3rd parties that we have data processing agreements with (i.e. Mailchimp, Google analytics etc)
  • DPIA: We have conducted a Data Protection Impact Assessment and it is available to authorities if requested.
  • Written this blog post: to make sure you do not panic and go erasing any linkup you have! Linkups are still a great way to bring engaged traffic to your blog and let your users contribute to your content and exposure!

Final thoughts on GDPR.

While it may now seem that the sky is falling on our blogging heads, the GDPR is actually a welcomed change. The last time something similar was drafted was back in 1995, called the Data Protection Act. And the online world has changed dramatically since then. At that time, “blog” wasn’t even a word.

With the GDPR, control of the individual’s private data is given back to the individual. The big corps are required to have accountability over our data and their actions on it and trust will slowly build up from now on between each level of existence in the online world (consumer, reader, blogger, BigCorp, etc)

Panic is a bad advisor and deleting your email list or your Linkups, will not instantly make you GDPR-compliant. You just need to make it clear to your readers that you respectfully ask for their info.

Up to now, big corps snatched our precious PII for their gain, resulting in a general feeling of distrust. Building trust back to our beloved internet will only make it better and safer for all of us!

Think we are missing something?

Feel free to let us know in the comments or just send us an email and we’ll update ASAP!

Remember, this is not legal advice. It is only a guide to move you in the right direction. As long as you have taken some steps to make your blog compliant, you shouldn’t worry about legal action. So again, if there is only ONE thing you have time for, then, create a Privacy Policy!

 

Useful links:

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How to add your links in a link party

A new link party has been announced and it is time for you to add a link.

Let’s see how you can do it with as few clicks as possible!

Before you get started, make sure you have read carefully the Terms & Conditions of the link party and follow the rules the host have set.

The link party is open. Add a link

Click on the +Add Link button to expand the link options:

Add a link through the blog tab

Add a link through the Blog tabThe Blog tab will be open by default. Add the URL of your link (A).

Add a link through the Blog tab

As soon as you press enter or click outside this field, all the images found in the URL will be displayed.

Pick the one you want to submit (B). Click on the three lines that show up on the top-right corner of the image, if you need to crop the image. Apply.

The title of your link will automatically be picked up but you can change it, if you want (C).

Enter your email address (D). Once you enter it the first time, it will always be auto-entered.

Note: Your email will be no visible to other guests.

Save your submission (E).

Add a link through the Upload tab

Add a link through the Upload tab

If the URL of your link doesn’t bring the desirable image, you can always upload an image directly from your computer.

Drag the image in (A)

Drag an image or paste the image URL

or past the exact URL of it (B).

Note: To copy the exact URL of the image, right click on the image and then select to “Copy image address”.

Share your link with your followers

Share your link with your followers

Once you submit a link, you can share it with your followers on your Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter account so to get them informed of the new share and invite them to visit your link.

Add from history

A history feature is also available to the new InLinkz that keeps the old entries, in case you want to add the same link in another blog as well. All the fields will be pre-filled but of course you can make changes, if necessary.

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How to start a link party: a step by step guide

 

Welcome to InLinkz link parties!

If you’re interested in gaining early access to new InLinkz, join beta InLinkz link parties:

The new version of InLinkz

 

Register

Register to new InLinkz

  1. Create an account with the same email you use on the old InLinkz.
  2. Insert the password of your preference twice.
  3. Click to create your account or
  4. Login with your social media credentials (Facebook or Google+).

 

Login

Login to InLinkz

After activating your account, login in with your credentials.

Note: You will receive an activation email in your inbox.  If not, please check your spam folder and if you find it there, set it as not-spam.

Well done! You are in 🙂

 

Let’s see, now, how to create your first link party!

 

Create a party!

Create new party

From your dashboard, click on the “Create new party” board.

Timezone

If it’s your first party, you need to set your timezone. This is a process you need to do only once.

Now, let’s organize your party!

My new link party

  1. Pick a name! This will be displayed on your dashboard together with a list of all the link parties you have made.
  2. Set your Terms & Conditions and let your quests know about your rules, prizes or other prerequisites. This field will be visible on your blog just before the entries.
  3. Choose the type of the party you want to create· images with caption or only images. Here is how the two types will be displayed on your blog:
Image with caption

Image with caption

Only image

Only image

4 and 5.  Set the opening and the closing date of your party. A party opens for link submissions at the date and time set in the “Opening Date” field and closes when the “Closing date” is reached.

Here is how your link party will look on your blog before it opens:

The link party is not open

Between the opening and the closing date, the widgets will display on your blog an “Add Link” button:

The link party is open

6. Click to create your party!

7. For customize your party further, click to the +Advanced options.

 

+Advanced options

Advanced options

From this field you can:

A. Arrange the links into chronological, alphabetical or random order.

B. Select the value of the image size that suits your blog’s layout best.

C. Define the number of links you want to be displayed per page. The default value is 10 but you can change this number according to your preferences.

D. Define the max number of links you want to be submitted to this link party.

InLinkz dashboard

You are set! Your first party has now be created and it is displayed on your dashboard.

 

More link party options

Link party options

Once you create a party, you have the option to:

A. End your party earlier with just one click.
B. Edit it.
C. Delete it or
D. Clone your party. If you have created an awesome link party and you want to use it as a base for another party as well, you can clone it. Your cloned party will be displayed on your dashboard with the same name but different date. That feature will save your precious blogging time.

Clone a link party

How to add the link party to your blog

 

Add a link party to your blog

Click to </> to grab the code for your blog.

Add your blog URL

If it’s your first party, you need to set your blog URL once and add one or more description tags to describe your blog’s theme.

Press enter and save.

Grab the code for your blog

Select all the code, copy and paste it to your html editor of your blog.

You are set!

The link party is open

Now, your guests are able to add their links. Check out the available link options here.

Manage party links

The number of the submitted links of each party are displayed on the left top edge of each party board.

Manage party links

To manage these links and have access to all the useful information about them, click on the “Manage party links” button.

It will direct you to a new page where you can:

A. Select your guests email addresses

B. Check the guests clicks per links and

C. Check the time they submitted a link

From this point, you can also visit the current party (D) and sort the links, for your convenience (E).

InLinkz dashboard

Now, back to the Inlinkz dashboard.

A really useful feature in new InLinkz is the party sorting option, especially when you have created a lot of link parties. There are three different ways to sort out your parties on your dashboard: you can select to be displayed only the scheduled (A), the open (B) and or the ended parties (C).

Once your first guest submits a link, a “GUESTS” page (D) will be shown up to your dashboard which will provide you with all the useful information about your active guests.

Guests page

Guests active in your parties

This is the most important field of your link party, since you can gather useful information about your guests, like:

A. their email address which you can make good use of it for your blog’s emailing list.

B. the total number of links they have submitted to your parties.

C. the time they submitted their last link and

D. their overall activity to all of your parties. Read more below.

For your convenience, you can export this data in an excel file (E), so you can easily use your guest’s emails for your blog email list.

All results can be sorted again by the number of links or by the latest submission.

Guests activity

Guests activity

If you click on the “Activity” button, you can see the overall guest’s activity to your parties.

Specifically, you can:
A. check all the links he/she has submitted

B. check the number of clicks he/she has got

C. open the specific party he/she submitted a link

D. visit the link

E. sort this data by link title, the latest link or the clicks it got

F. block this guest by clicking on the yellow button on your footer. You can undo this action anytime.

 

Settings

InLinkz profile and blog settings

On the right side of your Inlinkz dashboard, if you click on the little arrow beside your email, you have access to your profile settings as well as your blog(s) information.

Edit your InLinkz profile details

You can edit your profile details from here and

Manage your blogs

you can also manage your blogs data. You have the option to declare more than one blog URLs.

Once you add them, a delete option will be available as well.

 

Enjoy your party!!

 

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