GDPR Concerns Temporarily Result In The Removal Of Trash Cans From Ireland Post Office

from the that's-some-fine-regulation-you-got-there,-EU dept

The regulatory nightmare known as GDPR continues to wreak havoc. The data privacy law enacted by the European Union has possibly helped protect the data of Europeans, but the thick cloud of smoke rising from the collateral damage makes it impossible to say for sure.

Regulating the internet isn't as simple as the EU Parliament thought it would be. The first reaction many US sites had to the new law was to block every user appearing to originate from a covered country. The EU Parliament couldn't even comply with GDPR properly. Its own website didn't anonymize incoming users correctly, allowing the Parliament's site to hoover up IP addresses to send through to Google Analytics. The EU Commission responded to this gaffe by exempting itself from the law.

Meanwhile, European citizens were experiencing the downsides of mandated data export. The law requires all user data collected by tech companies to be available on demand to European internet users. In theory, a wonderful idea. In practice, it means if someone hacks one of your accounts, they can start requesting your data as well. Even without being hacked, your personal data can be sent to someone else because tech companies are just as prone to clerical errors as anyone else.

This latest incident is more of the same. Another debacle powered by GDPR. This time, the problem created wasn't composed of 1s and 0s. This time the side effects could be felt physically.

All public bins have been removed from the GPO [General Post Office] due to potential privacy breaches under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Customers and visitors to the historic building will no longer be able to dispose their litter within the premises.

An Post says under the new privacy laws, even rubbish containing personal details is considered their responsibility.

For this reason, a decision was taken to remove every bin from the post office’s main hall.

The problem? Post office customers were tossing out unwanted mail and receipts -- all of which contained confidential personal data now regulated by GDPR. The post office's solution was to remove its inadvertent data collection facilities, which apparently led to people leaving their regulated data lying on the office's counters and floors.

Fortunately, this new normal for post office users was swiftly reverted back to the old normal. The Commissioner of the Office of Data Protection issued a clarifying statement on post offices, rubbish bins, and protecting the privacy of post office customers.

When contacted this evening, a spokesperson for the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner told that "under no circumstances" could public litter be in breach of GDPR.

Great. Glad that's cleared up. Business as usual then?

“An Post have confirmed a number of outstanding issues around the handling of waste material from public litter bins in the GPO,” a spokesperson said.

“The bins had been removed from the public office of the GPO on a trial basis and have now been re-instated,” he said.


This is the stupid world the EU Parliament has gifted us. A breathtakingly broad law that regulates every entity that might possess the personal information of others has, however briefly, resulted in the removal of trash cans to ensure compliance. This may be the dumbest collateral damage yet, but it certainly won't be the last.

Filed Under: data protection, gdpr, ireland, irish post office, trash cans

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