How The GDPR Nearly Ruined Christmas

While the thinking behind the GDPR may seem sensible, time and time again we hear stories about how, in practice, it's a complete disaster. Some of that may be because of people misinterpreting the law. Some of it may be because the law is being abused. And some of it may be because the law is too vague. But some of it is just because the law tries to do way too much. So, today, we have a little story of how the GDPR nearly ruined Christmas for a small town in Germany.

The town of Roth has a long-standing tradition where children would write down their Christmas wishes, which would then be placed on a tree in the market. The city council would read the wishes and try to get the children what they wanted. Nice, wholesome, holiday good deeds and all. But... it became tricky under various privacy regulations, starting with Germany's own data privacy law and, later, the GDPR, because in order to get your wishes fulfilled, children had to provide their names and identifying information... and that's a big no-no under the law:

That legislation states that parents of minors have to provide consent to the use of their kids' data. Organizations that fail to comply face big financial penalties.

Providing proof of this was deemed too onerous by the council and the city decided against festive wish lists for 2018.

"The yearly trips to the fire brigade unit and the mayor were especially popular with children" Melanie Hanker, who works on events and public relations in the town's administration, told Die Welt last week. "Without the wishing lists, both these events will not take place this year," she added. Hanker refused CNN's request for an interview.

After initially cancelling this traditional wish-making and wish-granting, thankfully, a local radio station worked out a solution:

It created a wish list, which included a parental consent disclaimer, which can be printed from their website and put in the wishing box at the Christmas market, which opens on Thursday.

"This way, the wishes can be submitted and collected from Father Christmas also this year," the city said in a statement on Tuesday.

So... at least Christmas wasn't totally ruined, but now the simple process of making a wish involves a silly unnecessary extra tradition: having parents sign legal consent disclaimers to allow their children to make wishes that they hope the city council will fulfill. It's a Christmas miracle bureaucracy!

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