January 7 2023

CloudFlare and GDPR. How are things?

Let's find out together what the current situation is regarding CloudFlare and the GDPR.

CloudFlare GDPR

CloudFlare is a performance optimization solution that works in reverse proxy, ie it acts as an intermediary between the website and the visitors who request it. CloudFlare provides a worldwide distributed proxy network that allows you to deliver content to visitors faster, reducing latency and data transfer time.

Pingora Reverse Proxy Scheme

However, using CloudFlare as a reverse proxy might raise some issues in relation to the GDPR regulation on the protection of personal data. In particular, there is a risk that site visitor data will be exported to non-European countries which may have less stringent data protection regulations than European ones.

The GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation, is a European regulation that aims to protect the personal data of citizens of the European Union. The GDPR establishes a set of rules for the processing of personal data that must be respected by anyone who processes this type of information, regardless of their location or activity.

One of the fundamental principles of the GDPR is that of the protection of personal data even outside the European Union. For this reason, the GDPR expressly prohibits the export of data to non-European countries that do not guarantee an adequate level of protection of personal data.

The GDPR considers the level of personal data protection of a non-European country adequate only if this country has adopted laws and regulations that guarantee a level of protection comparable to that provided for by the GDPR. In the absence of these guarantees, the GDPR prohibits the export of data to these countries in order to protect the personal data of citizens of the European Union.

This has also raised doubts and concerns on the part of some personal data protection supervisors and European courts of justice. For example, the Austrian Data Protection Authority has expressed concern that data from visitors to Austrian sites may be processed outside the European Union through CloudFlare

Furthermore, the Court of Justice of the European Union has raised doubts on the compatibility of using CloudFlare as a reverse proxy with the GDPR regulation, underlining that there may be risks for the protection of visitors' personal data.

A brief personal critical analysis.

There is no doubt that the GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation, has introduced a series of stringent rules for the processing of personal data, in order to guarantee an adequate level of protection of the personal data of citizens of the European Union. However, some companies argue that these rules are penalizing European companies for using US services such as CloudFlare.

The reason for this penalty lies in the provision of the GDPR which prohibits the export of data to non-European countries that do not guarantee an adequate level of protection of personal data. The United States, for example, is not considered a country with a level of data protection comparable to that required by the GDPR, which means that European companies cannot use US services such as CloudFlare for the processing of their customers' personal data.

This arrangement could be a problem for some businesses, especially those that need services like CloudFlare to protect against DDOS attacks or hackers. In these cases, in fact, the use of CloudFlare could be prohibited by the GDPR, even if this service would represent the only effective solution to protect yourself.

We hope that it will be possible to find a meeting point between the European Union and the United States to restore the Privacy Shield. The Privacy Shield was an agreement between the EU and the US that regulated the transfer of personal data from the EU to the US. The agreement was signed in 2016 to replace the Safe Harbor agreement, which had been invalidated by the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Europe USA Privacy Shield Logo

The Privacy Shield ensured an adequate level of protection for the personal data of citizens of the European Union even when this data was transferred to the United States. However, in 2020 the Court of Justice of the European Union declared the Privacy Shield invalid, arguing that the level of protection of personal data guaranteed by the agreement was not high enough.

The reintroduction of the Privacy Shield could represent an important step towards ensuring greater protection of the personal data of citizens of the European Union even when this data is transferred to the United States.

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