Upcoming changes for GDPR compliance in XF1 and XF2

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Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
#1
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is soon upon us. But, what is it? Does it apply to your site? How can XenForo help you with compliance in the key areas of the regulation? This "Have you seen" thread will aim to clear up some of these questions, and give you a preview of what is coming up in XenForo 1.5.20 and XenForo 2.0.6.

What is the GDPR?
The GDPR is a European Union (EU) regulation that has been designed to protect the data and privacy of EU residents. It strengthens and replaces existing data protection acts/directives and becomes enforceable from 25th May 2018. The primary aim is to give control to EU residents over their personal data and unify regulation within the EU.

But I'm not an EU resident...
That may be true, but with over half a billion residents in 28 member states, it's a fairly reasonable expectation that at some point you will have an EU resident register on your forum and they will indeed be protected by this regulation and breaches of the regulation can bring penalties and fines against you, whether you're an EU resident, or not. Even so, data protection and privacy will be important to every one of your members, regardless of their country of origin.

How can we help?
Depending on your interpretation of the guidelines and how you specifically use your member's data, there isn't much more to add to help you comply with these regulations. That said, this would be a pretty boring post without some new things to show you so we will explain some of the new features below and how they help you, as a data controller, to comply with the regulations.


Individual rights

Right to erasure
ICO said:
Under Article 17 of the GDPR individuals have the right to have personal data erased. This is also known as the ‘right to be forgotten’. The right is not absolute and only applies in certain circumstances.
Unfortunately, erasure does not relate to a 1980s pop duo but instead it relates to the inevitability that at some point, one of your members may want to leave your forum and in doing so, may want to have their personal data removed. This is also known as the "right to be forgotten".

Of course XenForo has always allowed you to delete members via the Admin CP, and this approach is still recommended, but this has traditionally left their content attributed to them. You have always been able to workaround this by changing the user's name prior to deleting the user. Although we're not at this stage looking to totally remove the user's content, we are making it easier to anonymise a deleted user's content.

1525459818167.png


When deleting a user, you will now be given the option to just delete them (as now) or change their name before deleting them. You can choose the pre-defined text (which is the content of the deleted_member phrase in your language, followed by their user_id) or change it manually to whatever name you prefer.


Right to data portability
ICO said:
The right to data portability gives individuals the right to receive personal data they have provided to a controller in a structured, commonly used and machine readable format. It also gives them the right to request that a controller transmits this data directly to another controller.
Technically, under certain laws in certain countries, the right for a user to request a copy of any personal information held by a data controller has always been necessary. The main difference now is that the information should be provided to the data subject in a machine readable format.

Starting with the next release, it will be possible for admins to generate an XML file containing a user's personal information, including those entered in custom user fields. The XML file produced can be imported into any other XF1 or XF2 forum running an appropriate version.


Right to be informed
ICO said:
  • You must provide individuals with information including: your purposes for processing their personal data, your retention periods for that personal data, and who it will be shared with. We call this ‘privacy information’.
  • You must provide privacy information to individuals at the time you collect their personal data from them.
  • You must regularly review, and where necessary, update your privacy information. You must bring any new uses of an individual’s personal data to their attention before you start the processing.
XenForo already has functionality to enable you to edit your terms and rules, provides you with tools for you to create a privacy policy (help pages, page nodes) and present that information when they are registering. In the next releases we are somewhat expanding these features.

The first step is to start providing a default privacy policy, via a help page, similar to how we also provide a default terms and rules page. If you already have a privacy policy URL, we will continue to link to this. If you do not, then we will start displaying the new default policy link in the appropriate places. After upgrading, if you do not want or need a privacy policy then you can disable it in options.


Lawful basis for processing

Consent
ICO said:
  • Consent means offering individuals real choice and control. Genuine consent should put individuals in charge, build trust and engagement, and enhance your reputation.
  • Consent requires a positive opt-in. Don’t use pre-ticked boxes or any other method of default consent.
  • Keep evidence of consent – who, when, how, and what you told people.
On a similar subject to the previous "Right to be informed" section, consent must apply to things such as the privacy policy and terms and rules. In XF2 we already seek this consent if you have a privacy policy or terms and rules URL configured. In XF1, however, we only did this if a terms and rules URL was configured. In XF2, there was no checkbox to consent to these, but in XF1 there was.

There are obvious inconsistencies there, so in the next releases we have taken a more consistent approach during registration:

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 00.35.42.png


We already make it possible for a user to opt-in to or opt-out of receiving site emails using the "Receive site mailings" option under "Preferences", which can of course be set or un-set by default for new users under Options > User registration. That preference remains, though we have changed its name slightly. We've also added a new admin option (again, under "User registration") to enable you to show that preference on registration:

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 01.24.52.png


To enable you to keep evidence of consent, we will log the consent date for acceptance of the terms and rules and privacy policy in the "User change log". We will also log if a user chooses explicitly opt in to receiving emails.

In the current version, user change logs are only kept for a period of 60 days (by default) so we have made changes here to ensure that certain change logs are "protected". These protected entries are never pruned and they are displayed differently in the log (denoted by the left feature border):

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 01.36.34.png


In these releases, we are also making it possible to ask users to re-accept terms and rules or privacy policies. Because we provide the ability to use any URL as your terms or privacy policy, and because the default policies are editable by changing phrases or templates, the most explicit approach to triggering re-acceptance is having a specific page for each under Communication > Help in the Admin CP:

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 02.01.04.png


Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 02.02.19.png


Once you click "Save" any users will be prompted to re-accept the respective policy. They will not be able to continue using the site until they do. If you use the default page then the policy will be displayed on the page:

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 02.09.08.png



Cookies
ICO said:
The rules on cookies are in regulation 6. The basic rule is that you must:
  • tell people the cookies are there;
  • explain what the cookies are doing and why; and
  • get the person’s consent to store a cookie on their device.
We have, for many years, shown a notice to users on their first visit explaining that cookies will be set. This notice was only shown on the very first page load before it disappeared. This should be fine, in most cases, though we've decided to make some improvements for the next release to make the usage of cookies more clear, and to require the notice to be dismissed:

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 02.21.08.png


Interestingly, this notice doesn't appear as a block notice at the top of the page, and it doesn't appear in the bottom right corner as a floating notice. Instead, we've created an entirely new position called "Fixed". This notice position is actually fixed at the very bottom of the page and full width (similar to the inline mod bar). You can even use this position for any notice you create.

The default help page for cookies has been expanded with more detailed information about what cookies are set, and why.


And that brings us to the end of this GDPR-centric Have you seen thread!

Due to the fairly large number of changes in these releases, we will first be releasing beta versions on Tuesday 8th May which will be available to all customers with an active license, while aiming for a final and stable release on Tuesday 22nd May.

As ever, with Have you seen threads, please post any suggestions in the suggestion forum (one thread per suggestion).
 
Last edited:

Rudy

Well-known member
#4
We never like to delete accounts since this also deletes posting history, IP addresses used, reports, etc. We use a lot of this information to detect possible bad members who may sign up in the future, among other reasons.

What would be wrong with changing the username of the account, setting their profile privacy options to "Nobody," and emptying all of the user's profile fields? That is about as "forgotten" as an account can get without killing off that entire history, as their content would still be remaining and anything personally identifiable would be wiped out when the account is "emptied". We have done this before for other reasons. The only thing arguably "personally identifying" would be dates and IP addresses saved, and those are saved in the server Apache logs anyway. (I would say that I wouldn't expect the EU to demand we remove entries from millions of lines of Apache server logs, yet who knows?)

Does changing the username now also change their name in the headers of quoted posts and "@" mentions, or is that still a search/replace we would have to do on the text of the posts?
 

Roo82

Active member
#5
We never like to delete accounts since this also deletes posting history, IP addresses used, reports, etc. We use a lot of this information to detect possible bad members who may sign up in the future, among other reasons.

What would be wrong with changing the username of the account, setting their profile privacy options to "Nobody," and emptying all of the user's profile fields? That is about as "forgotten" as an account can get without killing off that entire history, as their content would still be remaining and anything personally identifiable would be wiped out when the account is "emptied". We have done this before for other reasons. The only thing arguably "personally identifying" would be dates and IP addresses saved, and those are saved in the server Apache logs anyway. (I would say that I wouldn't expect the EU to demand we remove entries from millions of lines of Apache server logs, yet who knows?)

Does changing the username now also change their name in the headers of quoted posts and "@" mentions, or is that still a search/replace we would have to do on the text of the posts?
That’s a really good question.
 
#6
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is soon upon us. But, what is it? Does it apply to your site? How can XenForo help you with compliance in the key areas of the regulation? This "Have you seen" thread will aim to clear up some of these questions, and give you a preview of what is coming up in XenForo 1.5.20 and XenForo 2.0.6.

What is the GDPR?
The GDPR is a European Union (EU) regulation that has been designed to protect the data and privacy of EU residents. It strengthens and replaces existing data protection acts/directives and becomes enforceable from 25th May 2018. The primary aim is to give control to EU residents over their personal data and unify regulation within the EU.

But I'm not an EU resident...
That may be true, but with over half a billion residents in 28 member states, it's a fairly reasonable expectation that at some point you will have an EU resident register on your forum and they will indeed be protected by this regulation and breaches of the regulation can bring penalties and fines against you, whether you're an EU resident, or not. Even so, data protection and privacy will be important to every one of your members, regardless of their country of origin.

How can we help?
Depending on your interpretation of the guidelines and how you specifically use your member's data, there isn't much more to add to help you comply with these regulations. That said, this would be a pretty boring post without some new things to show you so we will explain some of the new features below and how they help you, as a data controller, to comply with the regulations.


Individual rights

Right to erasure

Unfortunately, erasure does not relate to a 1980s pop duo but instead it relates to the inevitability that at some point, one of your members may want to leave your forum and in doing so, may want to have their personal data removed. This is also known as the "right to be forgotten".

Of course XenForo has always allowed you to delete members via the Admin CP, and this approach is still recommended, but this has traditionally left their content attributed to them. You have always been able to workaround this by changing the user's name prior to deleting the user. Although we're not at this stage looking to totally remove the user's content, we are making it easier to anonymise a deleted user's content.

View attachment 174691

When deleting a user, you will now be given the option to just delete them (as now) or change their name before deleting them. You can choose the pre-defined text (which is the content of the deleted_member phrase in your language, followed by their user_id) or change it manually to whatever name you prefer.


Right to data portability

Technically, under certain laws in certain countries, the right for a user to request a copy of any personal information held by a data controller has always been necessary. The main difference now is that the information should be provided to the data subject in a machine readable format.

Starting with the next release, it will be possible for admins to generate an XML file containing a user's personal information, including those entered in custom user fields. The XML file produced can be imported into any other XF1 or XF2 forum running an appropriate version.


Right to be informed

XenForo already has functionality to enable you to edit your terms and rules, provides you with tools for you to create a privacy policy (help pages, page nodes) and present that information when they are registering. In the next releases we are somewhat expanding these features.

The first step is to start providing a default privacy policy, via a help page, similar to how we also provide a default terms and rules page. If you already have a privacy policy URL, we will continue to link to this. If you do not, then we will start displaying the new default policy link in the appropriate places. After upgrading, if you do not want or need a privacy policy then you can disable it in options.


Lawful basis for processing

Consent

On a similar subject to the previous "Right to be informed" section, consent must apply to things such as the privacy policy and terms and rules. In XF2 we already seek this consent if you have a privacy policy or terms and rules URL configured. In XF1, however, we only did this if a terms and rules URL was configured. In XF2, there was no checkbox to consent to these, but in XF1 there was.

There are obvious inconsistencies there, so in the next releases we have taken a more consistent approach during registration:

View attachment 174692

We already make it possible for a user to opt-in to or opt-out of receiving site emails using the "Receive site mailings" option under "Preferences", which can of course be set or un-set by default for new users under Options > User registration. That preference remains, though we have changed its name slightly. We've also added a new admin option (again, under "User registration") to enable you to show that preference on registration:

View attachment 174693

To enable you to keep evidence of consent, we will log the consent date for acceptance of the terms and rules and privacy policy in the "User change log". We will also log if a user chooses explicitly opt in to receiving emails.

In the current version, user change logs are only kept for a period of 60 days (by default) so we have made changes here to ensure that certain change logs are "protected". These protected entries are never pruned and they are displayed differently in the log (denoted by the left feature border):

View attachment 174694

In these releases, we are also making it possible to ask users to re-accept terms and rules or privacy policies. Because we provide the ability to use any URL as your terms or privacy policy, and because the default policies are editable by changing phrases or templates, the most explicit approach to triggering re-acceptance is having a specific page for each under Communication > Help in the Admin CP:

View attachment 174695

View attachment 174696

Once you click "Save" any users will be prompted to re-accept the respective policy. They will not be able to continue using the site until they do. If you use the default page then the policy will be displayed on the page:

View attachment 174697


Cookies

We have, for many years, shown a notice to users on their first visit explaining that cookies will be set. This notice was only shown on the very first page load before it disappeared. This should be fine, in most cases, though we've decided to make some improvements for the next release to make the usage of cookies more clear, and to require the notice to be dismissed:

View attachment 174698

Interestingly, this notice doesn't appear as a block notice at the top of the page, and it doesn't appear in the bottom right corner as a floating notice. Instead, we've created an entirely new position called "Fixed". This notice position is actually fixed at the very bottom of the page and full width (similar to the inline mod bar). You can even use this position for any notice you create.

The default help page for cookies has been expanded with more detailed information about what cookies are set, and why.


And that brings us to the end of this GDPR-centric Have you seen thread!

Due to the fairly large number of changes in these releases, we will first be releasing beta versions on Tuesday 8th May which will be available to all customers with an active license, while aiming for a final and stable release on Tuesday 22nd May.

As ever, with Have you seen threads, please post any suggestions in the suggestion forum (one thread per suggestion).
That is brilliant. Just want to say thank you @Chris D and thank you to all the staff for helping us with these extra features. Whilst some of us may already be pretty much set, the additional tools here will most definitely finish it off for some - ourselves included.
So just want to show my appreciation, thank you.
 
#8
Does changing the username now also change their name in the headers of quoted posts and "@" mentions, or is that still a search/replace we would have to do on the text of the posts?
I already do this right now and can confirm that the @ tags and such do get changed but I think the rest will need changing, won't it?
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
#9
What would be wrong with changing the username of the account, setting their profile privacy options to "Nobody," and emptying all of the user's profile fields?
Nothing wrong with that, IMO.

Does changing the username now also change their name in the headers of quoted posts and "@" mentions, or is that still a search/replace we would have to do on the text of the posts?
Still a manual job, if you feel it is necessary to do so to comply.
 
#13
That is brilliant. Just want to say thank you @Chris D and thank you to all the staff for helping us with these extra features. Whilst some of us may already be pretty much set, the additional tools here will most definitely finish it off for some - ourselves included.
So just want to show my appreciation, thank you.
BIG QUOTE, thank's guys!

I was awaiting these features and I will take the opportunity to upgrade to v.2 :cool:
 

Stuart Wright

Well-known member
#18
Great news. As always, the Xenforo team are looking after us.
FYI @Chris D in the Google webinar I watched on Thursday last, they said quite specifically that if a user is deleted, their google Analytics data must be deleted also. Quite how that person is identified, I don't know, but Google are adding that facility soon if not already.
 

Chris D

XenForo developer
Staff member
#19
We have no control over your Google Analytics data so, unfortunately, it’s very much a case of something you have to remove manually if that’s required for compliance.
 
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