Ever asked yourself what would Jesus do with your personal and private data (the answer might be here)? And what happens when mere mortals revolt against such an entity by requesting for rights to access and rights to be forgotten perhaps all at once? How about a sustained revolt say over a period of months after 25th? Could lesser companies be on the verge of a new C10k problem with real world consequences? And dare I say, a GDPR flavoured DDoS? GDPR + DDoS = GDPRDDoS perhaps?
Often the greatest ideas pop up when casually discussing tech amongst close friends. Couple of beers and rounds of board games later over a quiet weekend, a realisation of how extensive one’s personal data permeates throughout all the digital services we take for granted today. Seeing that none of my immediate circle of tech friends presently works for a God-like entity capable of predicting our behaviours and futures, we started wondering what would the mere deities of the world do? In case you are wondering, God has a name, and it’s GAFAMA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Alibaba).
This is my prediction and I believe that an active, distributed and organised effort to retrieve personal data will occur, and companies that have not automated anything will no doubt get hit the worst. Coining this very scenario, the GDPRDDoS.
Let’s do a little thought exercise together
Let’s assume a single piece of personal data is gathered in one place. This one system will have no problem retrieving such data (with consent of course). Now let’s assume this data is distributed to 3 other services all equipped with different persistence layers. Perhaps the first is structurally backed by a blockchain, another a vanilla SQL but done in an immutable and event-driven fashion, the last being a rebellious NoSQL document store. This level of integration is not uncommon for a microservice landscape and often considered fairy manageable. Now let’s then assume 1 of the 3, the blockchain oriented service, is procured as a SaaS. Whilst the NoSQL backed service is hosted in the EU cloud elsewhere but nonetheless outsourced operation and development with the vendor pretty much only responding to email based change requests. Finally let the good old SQL backed service be hosted and maintained internally with your own teams. Cos you know, we play it safe with SQL. We also assume that since the first 2 services are outsourced, they potentially have additional systems that the centralised place has no integration towards.
With that in mind, and assuming you’re responsible for these systems, let’s say 1 individual digitally asks for their data on the 25th.
Scenario 1 – When Old school case handling works
Now let’s assume that the system is fairly static and that no dynamic streams of data about users are ever pumped into your systems. Your blockchained service will be in trouble if you have baked in personal information as part of the blocks. Nonetheless, we assume they are somehow issued centrally and you are in luck here. Assuming also you have a fairly decent relationship with the NoSQL backed vendor, you can turn around a change request in 2 days. You pay a minor fixed price each time. Lastly, you have a fantastic team managing your SQL backed service and doing a quick query is no problem on the existing system. Great! The cost of retrieving this data is pretty much the time and material cost of 1st two vendors plus some hours in the 3rd. Your customer service burns the data onto carton full of 5” floppy disks and hand this over to the customer with a smile on their faces.
Scenario 2 – Scaling up to 10 requests
Same setup, but now 10 requests hits. No problems! With glee, your customer service bundles the 10 requests into the same email to the vendors, perhaps wait for the 2 days, pay for the 2 days and burn 10 cartons worth of floppy disks. Assuming you still have a amicable relationship with your tech vendors, you’re fine. Your team is still ok because dude c’on, 10 additional queries? Your turnaround time is slightly increased because having to handle 10 independent cases is hard, but your customer service manages. You sleep soundly at night.
Scenario 3 – 100 requests
Now things gets a little interesting. Your blockchain vendor is saying that they might have to invest in some mechanism to replicate the chains and essentially re-write and verify history. Now your MS access die-hard event-sourcing CQRS SQL team is also saying the same! “This is supposed to be immutable! We are gonna have to find a way to re-create all histories and projections somehow…. But 100 requests is not that bad, we can re-create the DB each time to the nth degree.” Your NoSQL vendor is fine, scales up the bills accordingly. You are getting a little edgy because the cost of retrieving the data is no longer an email or a simple SQL join-select, no longer a simple time and material calculation. You hope that no more additional requests comes in and that the nation is finally satisfied with the knowledge that you haven’t done sweet FA to their personal data. Your customer support might be threatening to quit if they are manually coordinating this and you are fast running out of floppy disks to procure. You are twiddling your thumbs, wondering if you should hit up your back ally hookup person for some floppy disks.
Scenario 4 – 1000 requests
At this rate, you know you are out of floppy disks, your customer support is borderlining quitting, and your blockchain and your internal teams are no longer speaking to you. You generate 1000 emails yourself in the hopes that somebody else internally will be able to piece together some kind of data to be handed over to somebody.
Scenario 5 – 10000 requests
You rage quit and attempts to talk yourself into a job with GAFAMA because you know they have probably invested a bunch in automating all of this stuff and you got other interests other than sending out emails trying to get hold of data!
Scenario 6 – A sporadic spike in requests
Let’s say 1% of your national population requests this on the 25th…… #fml
Though the scenarios are purely theoretical and fictional, nevertheless it was a joy to write. Our data belongs to us and it is time that all consumers take back their rightful ownerships. If businesses are not automating, or not sure how, or have systems and vendors that are vastly difficult to integrate with, then brace yourselves, your winter is coming.