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The Ultimate Guide to WordPress and GDPR Compliance – Everything You Need to Know

Are you confused by GDPR, and how it will impact your WordPress site? GDPR, short for General Data Protection Regulation, is an European Union law that you have likely heard about. We have received dozens of emails from users asking us to explain GDPR in plain English and share tips on how to make your WordPress site GDPR compliant. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about GDPR and WordPress (without the complex legal stuff).

WordPress and GDPR Compliance

Disclaimer: We are not lawyers. Nothing on this website should be considered legal advice.

To help you easily navigate through our ultimate guide to WordPress and GDPR Compliance, we have created a table of content below:

Table of Content

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union (EU) law taking effect on May 25, 2018. The goal of GDPR is to give EU citizens control over their personal data and change the data privacy approach of organizations across the world.

What is GDPR?

You’ve likely gotten dozens of emails from companies like Google and others regarding GDPR, their new privacy policy, and bunch of other legal stuff. That’s because the EU has put in hefty penalties for those who are not in compliance.

Fines

Basically after May 25th, 2018, businesses that are not in compliance with GDPR’s requirement can face large fines up to 4% of a company’s annual global revenue OR €20 million (whichever is greater). This is enough reason to cause wide-spread panic among businesses around the world.

This brings us to the big question that you might be thinking about:

Does GDPR apply to my WordPress site?

The answer is YES. It applies to every business, large and small, around the world (not just in the European Union).

If your website has visitors from European Union countries, then this law applies to you.

But don’t panic, this isn’t the end of the world.

While GDPR has the potential to escalate to those high level of fines, it will start with a warning, then a reprimand, then a suspension of data processing, and if you continue to violate the law, then the large fines will hit.

GDPR Fines and Penalties

The EU isn’t some evil government that is out to get you. Their goal is to protect consumers, average people like you and me from reckless handling of data / breaches because it’s getting out of control.

The maximum fine part in our opinion is largely to get the attention of large companies like Facebook and Google, so this regulation is NOT ignored. Furthermore, this encourage companies to actually put more emphasis on protecting the rights of people.

Once you understand what is required by GDPR and the spirit of the law, then you will realize that none of this is too crazy. We will also share tools / tips to make your WordPress site GDPR compliant.

What is required under GDPR?

The goal of GDPR is to protect user’s personally identifying information (PII) and hold businesses to a higher standard when it comes to how they collect, store, and use this data.

The personal data includes: name, emails, physical address, IP address, health information, income, etc.

GDPR Personal Data

While the GDPR regulation is 200 pages long, here are the most important pillars that you need to know:

Explicit Consent – if you’re collecting personal data from an EU resident, then you must obtain explicit consent that’s specific and unambiguous. In other words, you can’t just send unsolicited emails to people who gave you their business card or filled out your website contact form because they DID NOT opt-in for your marketing newsletter (that’s called SPAM by the way, and you shouldn’t be doing that anyways).

For it to be considered explicit consent, you must require a positive opt-in (i.e no pre-ticked checkbox), contain clear wording (no legalese), and be separate from other terms & conditions.

Rights to Data – you must inform individuals where, why, and how their data is processed / stored. An individual has the right to download their personal data and an individual also has the right to be forgotten meaning they can ask for their data to be deleted.

This will make sure that when you hit Unsubscribe or ask companies to delete your profile, then they actually do that (hmm, go figure). I’m looking at you Zenefits, still waiting for my account to be deleted for 2 years and hoping that you stop sending me spam emails just because I made the mistake of trying out your service.

Breach Notification – organizations must report certain types of data breaches to relevant authorities within 72 hours, unless the breach is considered harmless and poses no risk to individual data. However if a breach is high-risk, then the company MUST also inform individuals who’re impacted right away.

This will hopefully prevent cover-ups like Yahoo that was not revealed until the acquisition.

Data Protection Officers – if you are a public company or process large amounts of personal information, then you must appoint a data protection officer. Again this is not required for small businesses. Consult an attorney if you’re in doubt.

GDPR Data Protection Officer

To put it in plain English, GDPR makes sure that businesses can’t go around spamming people by sending emails they didn’t ask for. Businesses can’t sell people’s data without their explicit consent (good luck getting this consent). Businesses have to delete user’s account and unsubscribe them from email lists if the user ask you to do that. Businesses have to report data breaches and overall be better about data protection.

Sounds pretty good, in theory at least.

Ok so now you are probably wondering what do you need to do to make sure that your WordPress site is GDPR compliant.

Well, that really depends on your specific website (more on this later).

Let us start by answering the biggest question that we’ve gotten from users:

Is WordPress GDPR Compliant?

Yes, as of WordPress 4.9.6, the WordPress core software is GDPR compliant. WordPress core team has added several GDPR enhancements to make sure that WordPress is GDPR compliant. It’s important to note that when we talk about WordPress, we’re talking about self-hosted WordPress.org (see the difference: WordPress.com vs WordPress.org).

Having said that, due to the dynamic nature of websites, no single platform, plugin or solution can offer 100% GDPR compliance. The GDPR compliance process will vary based on the type of website you have, what data you store, and how you process data on your site.

Ok so you might be thinking what does this mean in plain english?

Well, by default WordPress 4.9.6 now comes with the following GDPR enhancement tools:

Comments Consent

WordPress Comments Opt-in for GDPR

By default, WordPress used to store the commenters name, email and website as a cookie on the user’s browser. This made it easier for users to leave comments on their favorite blogs because those fields were pre-populated.

Due to GDPR’s consent requirement, WordPress has added the comment consent checkbox. The user can leave a comment without checking this box. All it would mean is that they would have to manually enter their name, email, and website every time they leave a comment.

Update: If your theme is not showing the comment privacy checkbox, then please make sure that you have updated to WordPress 4.9.6 and are using the latest version of your theme. Also please make sure that you are logged-out when testing to see if the checkbox is there.

If the checkbox is still not showing, then your theme is likely overriding the default WordPress comment form. Here’s a step by step guide on how to add a GDPR comment privacy checkbox in your WordPress theme.

Data Export and Erase Feature

WordPress Data Handling - GDPR

WordPress offers site owners the ability to comply with GDPR’s data handling requirements and honor user’s request for exporting personal data as well as removal of user’s personal data.

The data handling features can be found under the Tools menu inside WordPress admin.

Privacy Policy Generator

WordPress Privacy Policy Generator for GDPR

WordPress now comes with a built-in privacy policy generator. It offers a pre-made privacy policy template and offer you guidance in terms of what else to add, so you can be more transparent with users in terms of what data you store and how you handle their data.

These three things are enough to make a default WordPress blog GDPR compliant. However it is very likely that your website has additional features that will also need to be in compliance.

Areas on Your Website that are Impacted by GDPR

As a website owner, you might be using various WordPress plugins that store or process data like contact forms, analytics, email marketing, online store, membership sites, etc.

Depending on which WordPress plugins you are using on your website, you would need to act accordingly to make sure that your website is GDPR compliant.

A lot of the best WordPress plugins have already gone ahead and added GDPR enhancement features. Let’s take a look at some of the common areas that you would need to address:

Google Analytics

Like most website owners, you’re likely using Google Analytics to get website stats. This means that it is possible that you’re collecting or tracking personal data like IP addresses, user IDs, cookies and other data for behavior profiling. To be GDPR compliant, you need to do one of the following:

  1. Anonymize the data before storage and processing begins
  2. Add an overlay to the site that gives notice of cookies and ask users for consent prior to tracking

Both of these are fairly difficult to do if you’re just pasting Google Analytics code manually on your site. However, if you’re using MonsterInsights, the most popular Google Analytics plugin for WordPress, then you’re in luck.

They have released an EU compliance addon that helps automate the above process. MonsterInsights also has a very good blog post about all you need to know about GDPR and Google Analytics (this is a must read, if you’re using Google Analytics on your site).

MonsterInsights EU Compliance Addon

Contact Forms

If you are using a contact form in WordPress, then you may have to add extra transparency measures specially if you’re storing the form entries or using the data for marketing purposes.

Below are the things you might want to consider for making your WordPress forms GDPR compliant:

  • Get explicit consent from users to store their information.
  • Get explicit consent from users if you are planning to use their data for marketing purposes (i.e adding them to your email list).
  • Disable cookies, user-agent, and IP tracking for forms.
  • Make sure you have a data-processing agreement with your form providers if you are using a SaaS form solution.
  • Comply with data-deletion requests.
  • Disable storing all form entries (a bit extreme and not required by GDPR). You probably shouldn’t do this unless you know exactly what you’re doing.

The good part is that if you’re using WordPress plugins like WPForms, Gravity Forms, Ninja Forms, Contact Form 7, etc, then you don’t need a Data Processing Agreement because these plugins DO NOT store your form entries on their site. Your form entries are stored in your WordPress database.

Simply adding a required consent checkbox with clear explanation should be good enough for you to make your WordPress forms GDPR compliant.

WPForms, the contact form plugin we use on WPBeginner, has added several GDPR enhancements to make it easy for you to add a GDPR consent field, disable user cookies, disable user IP collection, and disable entries with a single click.

GDPR Form Fields in WPForms

Note: We have created a step by step guide on how to create GDPR compliant forms in WordPress.

Email Marketing Opt-in Forms

Similar to contact forms, if you have any email marketing opt-in forms like popups, floating bars, inline-forms, and others, then you need to make sure that you’re collecting explicit consent from users before adding them to your list.

This can be done with either:

  1. Adding a checkbox that user has to click before opt-in
  2. Simply requiring double-optin to your email list

Top lead-generation solutions like OptinMonster has added GDPR consent checkboxes and other necessary features to help you make your email opt-in forms compliant. You can read more about the GDPR strategies for marketers on the OptinMonster blog.

WooCommerce / Ecommerce

If you’re using WooCommerce, the most popular eCommerce plugin for WordPress, then you need to make sure your website is in compliance with GDPR.

The WooCommerce team has prepared a comprehensive guide for store owners to help them be GDPR compliant.

Retargeting Ads

If your website is running retargeting pixels or retargeting ads, then you will need to get user’s consent. You can do this by using a plugin like Cookie Notice.

Best WordPress Plugins for GDPR Compliance

There are several WordPress plugins that can help automate some aspects of GDPR compliance for you. However, no plugin can offer 100% compliance due to the dynamic nature of websites.

Beware of any WordPress plugin that claims to offer 100% GDPR compliance. They likely don’t know what they’re talking about, and it’s best for you to avoid them completely.

Below is our list of recommended plugins for facilitating GDPR compliance:

  • MonsterInsights – if you’re using Google Analytics, then you should use their EU compliance addon.
  • WPForms – by far the most user-friendly WordPress contact form plugin. They offer GDPR fields and other features.
  • Cookies Notice – popular free plugin to add an EU cookie notice. Integrates well with top plugins like MonsterInsights and others.
  • Delete Me – free plugin that allow users to automatically delete their profile on your site.
  • OptinMonster – advanced lead generation software that offers clever targeting features to boost conversions while being GDPR compliant.
  • Shared Counts – instead of loading the default share buttons which add tracking cookies, this plugin load static share buttons while displaying share counts.

We will continue to monitor the plugin ecosystem to see if any other WordPress plugin stands out and offer substantial GDPR compliance features.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re ready or not, GDPR will go in effect on May 25, 2018. If your website is not compliant before then, don’t panic. Just continue to work towards compliance and get it done asap.

The likelihood of you getting a fine the day after this rule goes in effect are pretty close to zero because the European Union’s website states that first you’ll get a warning, then a reprimand, and fines are the last step if you fail to comply and knowingly ignore the law.

The EU is not out to get you. They’re doing this to protect user’s data and restore people’s trust in online businesses. As the world goes digital, we need these standards. With the recent data breaches of large companies, it’s important that these standards are adapted globally.

It will be good for all involved. These new rules will help boost consumer confidence and in turn help grow your business.

We hope this article helped you learn about WordPress and GDPR compliance. We will do our best to keep it updated as more information or tools get released.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Additional Resources

Legal Disclaimer / Disclosure

We are not lawyers. Nothing on this website should be considered legal advice. Due to the dynamic nature of websites, no single plugin or platform can offer 100% legal compliance. When in doubt, it’s best to consult a specialist internet law attorney to determine if you are in compliance with all applicable laws for your jurisdictions and your use cases.

WPBeginner founder, Syed Balkhi, is also the co-founder of OptinMonster, WPForms, and MonsterInsights.

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. See how WPBeginner is funded, why it matters, and how you can support us.

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Reader Interactions

175 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. Seems it is the lengthy process to correct all the checks against each clause, do we have any plugin available to do correction across the WordPress blog?

  2. This is impossible to enforce.

    Who is going to go around and check if every single site is following this?

    What are newbie website owners going to do?

    It is hard enough to create a website and get a few people to come and read, and now you also have to deal with rubbish like this?

    To put it in plain English, the EU intended that big giants like Google and FB don’t screw with data.

    This law is not for the average Joe. There are hundreds of laws ordinary people break everyday by visiting simple websites, and doing simple thing online. Nobody can enforce laws like GDPR on small business owners.

    If you’re getting big, you definitely need to comply, it also makes sense, if you’re bigger, you have more resources.

  3. I doubt if this GDPR can be enforced for small businesses, does the EU plan on going after every single small website?

    I’m not based in the EU, this regulation does not apply to me, at least not at this level (I’m a small business).

    Even if it does apply, I can’t make any changes for every single regulation that comes about in different countries.

    I’d like to see how this plays out over the years, it is primarily meant for giants, not for ordinary people.

  4. The Ginger plugin works, it is simple to use and will block 3rd party cookies if the user wishes to not accept cookies but still see the website in question.

  5. Hello, I use Iubenda to manage my Privacy Policy, the page is not physically on our website, it’s hosted on Iubenda.com. There’s no option to add a link to an external link.

  6. I was sent a message by google that I should log into my adsense account and accept their new privacy policy and I have done that

    Is this same as GDPR because I am getting increasingly confused after reading this article

    Please what am I to do to make my wordpress site GDPR complaint because as for me, i have not done anything whatsoever.

  7. The article says there are fines for companies, so what if my business is not carried on by a company?
    And what about hobby websites and blogs, as in non-business websites?

    Either the article is not complete or misleading?
    Can you clarify?
    Thanks

  8. Thank you for your informative article. I have a question in regard to a blog I write. I have a self hosted WordPress site with a Divi theme. It is not a business, no marketing, no advertising – purely sharing a personal journey. I do offer people the opportunity to receive a notice when the next post is up. Their name and email address is stored in Aweber. Do I have to have Privacy notice etc for GDPR compliance?

  9. Very informative article. Really I was confused about the term GDPR. Now it’s clear to me…Thanks buddy

  10. I disagree with assuming the EU can dictate to a business without a physical location in an EU country. This is a sovereignty issue most US citizens would have issue with like the tea tax which basically started the American colonies fight for independence. The EU cannot globally criminalize an action they do not like and penalize a US citizen, or other citizen outside their umbrella of power, based on such action. To say they can is the height of socialist arrogance.

    Nor does the EU have dominion over the internet. If they do not like the way the rest of the world does business they are free to lock their coddled citizens in a make believe world much like the Chinese do.

    • True indeed but then there is DMCA which is an American law designed to protect copyright that people also follow regardless of soveriegnty. And Americans seem not to fight paying tax abroad even when their physical location and employment does not fall under American jurisdiction.

    • Of course the EU can criminalise certain actions globally.

      Currently – The sale of illicit goods to the EU can be made illegal and any EU police force make arrests for certain actions carried out by people entering the EU.

      The point is, this is a step towards protecting the data of anyone residing within the EU (even non-EU nationals). If a US based organisation releases data that is personal to me for their own gain or because they did not protect it properly – they should be penalised.

    • Yes! I thought I was the only one who’s thinking this way. Is there a legal precedent for something like this? A citizen from the EU visits my site and all of the sudden they have the right to legislate what I can and can’t do? I think everyone is jumping on the GDPR train because it means more work (i.e. more money) for developers. Is anyone else willing to just say that the emperor doesn’t have any clothes?

    • I don’t think they will go after anyone outside the Euro zone. What they could do howerver is force Google to integrate them in the search engine ranking factors. This way, every website could be affected…

  11. Can we choose to block business in Europe? There’d be ZERO reason for me to even come up over there… I don’t even want their money!

    • Sadly that’s more problems for you.
      Apparently EU has a rule, that will take effect this year that prohibits geoblocking. Am not a lawyer but basically that rule will prevent you from blocking out EU members from your site and attract fines .

  12. Hi, thank you all, Editorial Staff, SO much for this wonderful and helpful article, with all the helpful links and resources!! And I am so grateful to see a mostly positive and thankful response from our fantastic community of bloggers. I am so proud to be a part of this. And I really love your respectful treatment of the “spirit of this law.”

  13. Thanks for the detailed guide.
    But I feel you missed Google Adsense part.

    For EU users, we need to get consent for personalized/non-personalized ads.

    It would be really helpful for people if you update the article with the changes we need to make with Adsense.

    • Hi Amar,

      AdSense has issues GDPR related guidelines for publishers. Basically, you will need to disclose your ads in the privacy policy and cookie usage. You will need to show a cookie popup to get user consent.

      Admin

  14. What about using the Facebook Comments plugin? Is that in compliance? If not, how can we make it so?

    • Hi Lawrence,

      All Facebook embeds set cookies and track users across the web, you will need to disclose this information and get explicit user consent for those cookies.

      Admin

  15. I don’t use Google Analytics plugin in wordpress. But I placed Google Analytics code in header file of WordPress Theme. What can I do for this problem.

  16. Well that’s just brilliant. In order to eliminate spam, they have now set it up so every website, that I have ever sent my email to, anywhere in the world is going to email me some kind of spam about their “new privacy rules”. Idiots.

  17. Thank you so much for putting this together! It’s been a big help. I just run a personal blog but have managed to change a few of my plugins to be more compliant. I need to look at monster insights about their free version of their addon, but I think for the most part I should be fine.

    Cheers to you all! :) Take care of yourselves.

  18. “If your website has visitors from European Union countries, then this law applies to you.”

    Correction, “If your website has visitors from European Union countries, then this law applies to THEM.”

    This article makes no reference to which countries have treaties with the EU that would allow the EU to usurp their sovereignty to enforce, prosecute, and fine people within them, for having the “wrong check boxes” in their contact forms.

    The EU doesn’t get to swallow the earth like some amoeba. I am neither a citizen, serf, nor resident of the EU. My websites are all hosted in non-EU countries. If you can show me the list of countries that have signed on to a treaty to allow the EU to prosecute people for non-GDPR-approved check boxes within their borders, I’ll consider choosing or updating my own plugins/contact forms, thank you very much, or updating my .htaccess to block all EU IP addresses from visiting.

    And that’s how it’s played.

    • Good to know that your site can do without visitor from Europe. I reckon your are not providing important services or goods. Maybe you should read a bit more what the EU requires from companies tar getting European customers. Most of the topics are common sense e.g not to share information you receive with third parties without a previous approval. Similar laws exist ever since for sharing photos showing third parties in social media.
      I know that I am already a transparent person thanks to google and friends but at least I want to have the right to check what they have collected on me and to stop distribution of this information

    • I’m afraid the EU does… if you want to play fast and loose with personal data, feel you have a right to send me crap emails me if I didn’t sign up, store information about me with permission, release information about me to 3rd parties (intentionally or not)… then you shouldn’t have a website.

  19. This post seems relevant for wordpress.org (as mentioned). What about wordpress.com sites?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Jonathan, we don’t allow folks to copy our entire articles. However if you want to link to our article from your own original content blog post, then absolutely :)

      Admin

  20. Great article, I will certainly try to find it and refer to it if I ever need to worry about this.
    But since you say that worst case, i will first be given a warning, I will focus on other things and be motivated by real 3rd degree urgency then instead of spending hours now – a few hours before the “deadline” – for something that will probably never affect me.
    Sorry chums, this sounds like Bug2000’s little brother.
    Cheers!

  21. First off, thank you for explaining this so simply!

    Second, a question. I have a small self-hosted WP blog and I send new posts and updates to my readers but don’t sell them anything at this point. I’m using the Mailmunch plug in for opt-in forms, integrated with my Mailchimp email list.

    If I enable double-opt in for my email newsletter opt-in forms, do I need to also have legal language on each of those opt-in forms specifically stating that users information will be stored in my email marketing client and that they can unsubscribe at any time? Or is the double opt-in sufficient to be compliant? Should I perhaps include storage information in a privacy policy also/instead?

    Thanks!

  22. Excelent article. Exactly what everybody needs to hear. Keep up the excelent work. Blessings.

  23. GDPR is now started, I’ll update new policy in my website because it’s important and we are legal workers !

  24. Thank you so much! I updated WordPress and am not seeing the comment consent, is it a setting that needs to be turned on I cant seem to find it if so. Maybe because I am using Genesis? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks again

  25. Is there a way I can block EU users from accessing my wordpress site or put a splash screen saying EU users are not welcome?

  26. I have a blog that doesn’t do ANY monetizing. Actually it doesn’t get many views because I only do blogging as a hobby so far. What exactly do I need to do to be compliant with the new law? Does the law affect me if I”m not a business and not making money from my blog?

  27. Fantastic article! Luckily we’ve already implemented most of what you suggest for both ourselves and our clients, but we had a very longwinded way of getting there. It would have been so much quicker and easier if we’d read your clear and straightforward article first! WordPress seems to have been a bit late to the party in terms of GDPR compliance but at least we’re there now – just in the nick of time!

  28. The Cookie Notice plugin is NOT GDPR compliant – not even compliant with current cookie legislation in the EU.

    Before you set a cookie you have to have consent – Cookie Notice does not support the blocking of cookies at all.

  29. Pheew. Feel really good to read this article. Honestly, I’m dealing with this late and learning about this honestly scared the shit out of me and got me overwhelmed. Happy to hear that it’s not the end of the world and that if I take a step at a time towards compliance it’s gonna be all right.

  30. I had the privacy policy page created before all of this. So can I just do “Use this page” in the Privacy settings of WP or should I create a new page and delete the old one?

  31. Hi, this is an excellent article and a great practical and respectful approach to GDPR.

    I’m a 58 year old Danish business lawyer with a lifetime corporate background in European medico industry and having gone olderpreneur with my husband 4 years ago. So I KNOW about European data protection from the early 2000 days.

    Now, I’m getting a grip on GDPR for our website and SaaS application to make sure we’re compliant. And your article turned out to be the perfect place to start.

    So thanks, and a good day to you.
    /Mette

  32. Hi, thank you for this post.

    However, on out website, i do not see the extra checkbox: save my name, email and website in this browser etc.

    Any idea why this is not shown?

    Thank you very much!

  33. Hi great article indeed.

    wordpress self upgraded tonite to last version, but still my comments box don’t show the GDPR checkbox.

    They only show:
    notify me by mail new comments
    notify me by mail new posts

    is there some option i should activate?

  34. Thank you for this. I’ve been trying to prepare for GDPR for months, and I thought I’d considered every aspect. It’s reassuring to see I’m about 90% clear, but your piece has pointed me to one or two things I missed. (Check box for the contact form!)

    I still don’t really understand how the WordPress data handling features work though. They don’t seem to help me find all the data (IP addresses?) that visitors may have left. As far as I can see I’m going to have to manually remove comments (with associated e-mail addresses) for anyone who asks. Is that right?

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