Today on Hacker News I read the sad news about the application StreetLend shutting down its services. The reason for this was not that the app was not successful. It was. Being a service by the people, for the people (with only a couple of commercial elements to foot the bill and sustain the operation of the service) StreetLand is in many ways is an example of humane technology.
The main reason for having to throw in the towel by founder Chris Beach, as described in the announcement message on the StreetLand landing page was the GDPR laws that will come into effect in the EU in May:
Streetlend.com was a website that helped neighbours and friends lend items to each other. Ladders, drills etc.
The site was modern, mobile-friendly and easy to use. Scroll down to see how Streetlend worked, and why it was reluctantly shut down.
Lenders listed hundreds of items, mainly in London. Many friction-free transactions were made, at no charge to lender or borrower.
Streetlend’s business model involved affiliation with Amazon. When members searched for an item to borrow, they were also shown items to buy, and Streetlend earnt a cut of the sales revenue. Did it turn a profit? No, sadly not, but running at a loss was fine as my day job covered the bills.
Why shut down the site?
With sadness, StreetLend was shut down in April 2018, after five years of operation.
Unfortunately the European Union’s new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), introduced on 25th May 2018, creates uncertainty and risk that I can’t justify taking.
GDPR threatens website owners with fines of 4% of turnover or €20 million (whichever is higher) if they do not jump through a number of ambiguously-defined hoops. The law, combined with parasitic no-win-no-fee legal firms, puts website owners at risk of vindictive reporting. Young websites and non-profits cannot afford legal teams. Therefore the risk posed by GDPR is unacceptably high.
Perversely, this new EU law hurts small and ethical startups, but helps reinforce the dominance of Facebook, Google and Twitter, who are able to prepare and defend themselves using established legal teams and cash reserves, and who now face less competition from startups. The EU Cookie Law, EU VAT regulation and now the EU GDPR are all examples of poorly-implemented laws that add complexity and unintended side-effects for businesses within the EU.
See the StreetLand website for the full message and a description + more screenshots of the great service it offered.
We have discussed GDPR in previous topics, but then highlighting the positive aspects of this regulation… the privacy protection it offers to citizens of the EU in times where it iso much under threat (see also: Privacy is fundamental to Humane Tech (and Democracy)!)
I would like to dedicate this topic to discussing these downsides of GDPR and ways to avoid them!
See also the Hacker News discussion on this with now already more than 600 comments…