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LA Times and other US news websites still unavailable to UK readers one month after GDPR data protection rules came into force

A group of US news websites, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Daily News, are still inaccessible to UK readers one month after new data protection laws were brought into force.

The General Data Protection Regulation, in operation since midnight on 25 May, created a new set of data rules for all companies operating within the European Union.

The law applies to all companies that export and handle the personal data of EU citizens, including those based elsewhere in the world.

A group of websites owned by Tronc, previously Tribune Publishing, have been unavailable in most European countries since the new regulations came into force.

They include the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, Daily Press in Virginia, the Morning Call in Pennsylvania, and Hartford Courant in Connecticut.

When GDPR came into force, Tronc said it was “committed to looking at options” to make the websites accessible to readers in Europe again.

A placeholder statement on each of the websites said: “Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries.

“We are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to the EU market.

“We continue to identify technical compliance solutions that will provide all readers with our award-winning journalism.”

After a month of no progress, a Tronc spokesperson responded to questions from Press Gazette on Friday about whether it still intended to open up the websites to EU users again by reissuing the same statement.

Tronc has just completed the sale of the LA Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune to Nant Capital, the investment vehicle of Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong, founder of umbrella company Nant Works.

A Nant spokesperson told Press Gazette that now the transaction has been completed, Dr Soon-Shiong “does plan on addressing the GDPR issue in the future”.

Justin Dearborn, chairman and chief executive of Tronc, said in a statement that the sale would enable the company to reinvest and “enhance our capabilities to continue to deliver world-class journalism”.

A group of websites owned by Lee Enterprises, which publishes almost 50 daily newspapers across the US and hundreds of weekly and specialist titles, are also blocked to EU users.

A message underneath the headline “unavailable for legal reasons”, on an otherwise blank page, tells EU visitors: “We recognise you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore cannot grant you access at this time.”

The new GDPR regulation has been designed to give internet users more say over who uses their personal data. Under the new law, businesses will now have to prove they have consent to use personal information.

Companies in breach of GDPR rules could face heavy fines of up to €20m, or 4 per cent of the company’s annual global turnover, whichever is higher.

According to Techradar, in order to be GDPR-compliant news publishers must now have a privacy policy with clear information about how the website uses customer data, including whether it sends information to other companies or partners.

They must also have a process in place that allows customers to request that their details are removed from a website and its database, and all customer data must be kept secure in an encrypted environment within the EU.

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