Your GDPR Security Blanket

By Ray Schultz

Last December, I was at a holiday party thrown by a software developer, and was just about to sample some rigatoni when I felt a great weight on my left shoulder: Yale Moss, six feet, 195 pounds, stuffed into one of those tiny Tom Brown suits, was leaning on me.

It wasn’t a pleasant surprise. The last time we talked, Yale threatened to punch me out for failing to get his father Mo Moss into the DMA Hall of Fame. Now he was pretending to be friendly. “We’re having a Webinar tomorrow for my new business. I’d like you to be on it.”

“That’s short notice,” I said.

“Not in the age of real-time response,” he replied.

Trying to change the subject, I asked, “How’s your dad?”

“I’m no longer his son,” Yale said. “I refuse to be associated with that slimebucket.”

Huh? Now I had no interest in getting involved in any business of Yale’s, especially at the Moss family’s usual pay rate, which is no pay, nor in their internal disputes. But Yale insisted on hyping his new scam, Your GDPR Security Blanket, and he ordered, “Hear me out!”

I protested, mildly, that there are many fine products that help firms deal with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, the law that takes effect May 25.

“Not like this.” He was right about that.

To hear Yale tell it, all you have to do to comply with GDPR is merge your email list with his and Mo’s Proclivities database of alcoholics, opioid abusers and other such unfortunates.

That sounded like a non-starter to me–nobody in their right mind would turn a list over to Yale, given the Moss family’s history of stealing lists.

And what would happen if Yale’s algorithms failed and you ended up in trouble anyway? Yale said he would deploy his crack legal team. After probing, though, I learned that this consisted of Erwin Forrest, a collection hack who is unable to function outside of Part B of the New York Civil Court, and is known for shouting at reporters, opposing counsel and even clients.

I tried to demur, but Yale was insistent, and since he was twisting my arm and getting close to breaking my elbow, I agreed to participate.

The next day, I showed up at the Data Shack headquarters, in a desk-share place in Williamsburg. There was Erwin, looking reduced, and Yale, dressed in a knit cap, sweatshirt and pajama pants.

We had the usual hot chocolate laced with hot shots of caffeine, and jelly donuts, this being Free Jelly Donut Day in this joint. High on sugar and caffeine, we went into the Media Room, a small airless chamber with thick glass windows. There was no rehearsal. Yale got on Skype, there was a beep, and we got started.

My role, I learned, was to give the technical instructions for listeners, as they used to do in 2002. This took 10 minutes. Then Erwin started reading from legal documents in his gravelly voice, getting flustered at times by footnotes. It turned out he was reading an out-of-date paper on landlord-tenant law, so he tore through his papers until he found something on GDPR. Then he really got lost.

For his part, Yale gave his pitch, and as always, there was something menacing in his tone. “You’ve got three months,” he said. “Don’t be stupid.” By the end, the only person left was a British lawyer who commented, “You people don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Erwin and I shared a green cab back to Manhattan. “Erwin,” I asked, “do you really expect to get paid for all this?”

“I’m a collection lawyer,” he growled. ”I know how to get paid.”

That was the last I heard of it for a month. Then Yale called me to say, “-You won’t believe this–we’re being sued by the FTC,” as if I cared.  It turned out that the Data Shack had been hacked in 2016, and that data on persons on the Proclivities list was exposed, and Yale forgot to report it. “Hell, I’ve got a business to run,” he said. Yale insisted that I  attend the first hearing in the Brooklyn Federal Court.

Who was there but Mo himself, up from Tampa, with an expensive lawyer who specializes in this area. “I have to defend my own flesh and blood,” Mo said. Of course, he had little choice, since his name was also on the incorporation papers. Yale looked sullen.

I never gave Mo too much credit for smarts. But the two of us had coffee at  Starbucks afterwards, and he revealed the cause of his falling out with his son—namely that he, Mo, had refused to back Your GDPR Security Blanket.

Note: All resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental, etc. 

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