Dispatches from the panicked GDPR frontline
Our woman in London provides a front-row view of the data-protection frenzy
If there's one huge irony about the advent of GDPR, it's that it unleashed such a tsunami of spam.
For the past week, my email inbox has been overflowing with communications from increasingly desperate businesses and brands cajoling, begging, pleading and even trying to scare me into staying in touch with them as the E.U.'s General Data Protection Regulation neared taking effect.
It's as if every organization I've ever had contact with since the the internet began is suddenly begging me to stay in touch. They range from a friend who innocently emails out her gardening blog to my children's schools to the beauty retailer I bought a moisturiser from in 2001.
As the week has progressed, the emails have become more desperate. Some take an urgent tone, threatening fire and fury or appealing to FOMO if you don't tick the box. "Action required -- time's running out," intoned supermarket Waitrose's loyalty scheme. Financial group Fidelity assured me, "Don't worry, there's still time to tell us how you want to receive your expert news and views."
Others have started to behave like unstable, stalker-ish exes, sending a new email every day in response to my ignoring their previous pleas to opt in. I'm half-expecting one to start playing Chicago's "If you leave me now" when I open it up, birthday-card style. My husband received one late Thursday night that said:
"You don't appear to have opted in to our communications (any of them). No hard feelings, obviously, but now we have no choice but to say goodbye."
It's like the email equivalent of "Cat Person."
And then there is the sympathy card. "We Don't Like Goodbyes... Let's Stay in Touch," pleaded West End theater group Nimax Theatres before sending another email entitled: "The Curtain Goes up on Friday 25 May... Will You Be With Us?"
In similar fashion, Picturehouse Cinemas sent an image from the movie "Brief Encounter" with the caption "Could you really say goodbye?"
Meanwhile, skin care brand Elemis helpfully informed me it was now "protecting your skin and your data" in an email headed "yes, it's another GDPR email."
Political parties were no better: An email from the Labour Party, as revealed on Twitter, reminded people it was leader Jeremy Corbyn's birthday this weekend and threatened: "Come on, don't ruin Jeremy's birthday!"
From the marketing industry, Edelman's was headed, somewhat hopefully, "That Edelman GDPR Email You've Been Waiting For." Somehow I don't think so, but full marks for trying.
Twitter is responding with glee to marketers' desperate emails, and is full of quips this week from people paying not-so-fond farewells thanks to GDPR.
In tragic news, I have declined GDPR consent to the company which has been trying to flog me an upmarket swimming pool for the last 5 years. During which time, I have lived in a second floor flat.— Andrew Brooks (@taxbod) May 22, 2018
Then there are the GDPR memes and gifs. One popular meme posts photos of the likes of Prince William, Donald Trump and Darth Vader in mid-conversation with someone random, all captioned; "DO YOU STILL WANT TO GET MY EMAILS AFTER GDPR TAKES EFFECT?"
DO YOU STILL WANT TO GET OUR EMAILS AFTER GDPR TAKES EFFECT? pic.twitter.com/zNVFMRRAqM— Mnrrnt & 207 others (@Mnrrnt) May 23, 2018
TV presenter and Times journalist Giles Coren spoke for many when he tweeted:
Do all these GDPR opt-in emails mean that if I don't respond (which I won't), my inbox will revert to some prelapsarian happy space of personal communications intended only for me and with no intention to sell me anything at all? If so, Hallefuckingluja.— Giles Coren (@gilescoren) 16 May 2018