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Some U.S. websites go dark across Europe

Websites for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News and others in the U.S. went dark across Europe on Friday as a new set of data privacy rules was imposed.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation kicked in, prompting Tronc Inc., the publisher of those sites, to block readers from the EU as the websites made changes to comply.

The Hill reported other companies such as Google, Twitter, Yelp and Uber had recently sent notices to their users about changes to privacy policies and user agreements – all aimed at making their data collection procedures “more transparent.”

The new rules require companies to give “full disclosure” to site users on what they do with the digital information they collect and offer them more control.

“Under the new rules, European users are able to request copies of the data that websites have on them or ask companies to delete that information; websites have to ask for permission to collect and share user data; and companies need to disclose their data practices in clear language, instead of obscuring them with legalese,” the Hill said.

While the rules only apply inside the EU, users of those sites in the U.S. also could see changes as the sites apply the new requirements generally across their platforms.

“The law will affect virtually any company that collects and stores sensitive data, from health care organizations to banks, but the burden of complying will fall harder on some companies than others depending on their data practices,” the Hill report said.

Cynthia Cole, a lawyer with an international firm, told the publication that the companies will have an easier time “if your business model is not built around exploiting personal information and selling it on the open market.”

Other sites, such as Instapaper, announced they would be unavailable temporarily while changes are made.

The penalties adopted by the EU are significant, with infractions possibly resulting in fines of $23.5 million, or 4 percent of a company’s revenue.

The new standards come just as social media companies such as Facebook and Google face controversy over the data they collect from members and how they profit from it.

They also face accusations of systematic censorship of conservative sites.

Brexit leader Nigel Farage, a member of the EU Parliament, this week cited Facebook’s decision to “doctor” the news by suppressing conservative voices.

One of the bigger scandals recently was the revelation that the research company Cambridge Analytica acquired data on 87 million Facebook users without their approval.

A report Friday from Fastcompany said many companies are moving to a procedure of “forced consent” in which customers must agree to the privacy rules or give up access to the site.

The rules, the report said, are supposed to give users options regarding their data usage.

“The opposite feeling spread on the screens of many users: tons of ‘consent boxes’ popped up online or in applications, often combined with a threat, that the service cannot longer be used if user do[es] not consent.”

Reuter reported Google was handing out tools to help publishers comply.

Many online companies track users, whether they are shopping or conversing with friends. Such information often is monetized by the websites.

“The new rules require that they have specific justification, such as consent, for using personal information,” Reuters reported.