WordPress GDPR Compliance – Data Requests

Jul 23, 2020 | , , , , , | System Administration | 0 comments

This is the final post in our WordPress GDPR compliance blog series. We will be looking at how to use the tools provided by your WordPress website to handle GDPR requests from your website visitors. As I mentioned in the previous GDPR post, this post is not a complete guide to WordPress GDPR compliance, rather I just want to bring to light some of the tools and insights that I’ve found useful in getting closer to GDPR compliance. Secondly, I am not a lawyer and therefore you should not rely on any of this with regard to your own legal protections particularly with regard to your website’s Privacy and Cookie policies. You should seek out professional legal advice which is the wisest and cheapest option for you, particularly if you end up facing legal issues with regard to GDPR data protection compliance in the future.


One of the things that GDPR mandates is the ability for a person to either request a copy of the personal data on your system, including digital form, and/or request that all of their personal data be deleted from your system. Both of these requests should be handled within 30 days of the request being made unless the request is “unreasonable” in nature and or you require more information from the person in order to locate their personal data in your system. Typically you indicate parameters around how your business handles these kinds of requests in your website Privacy Policy. This can at first seem fairly daunting, fortunately, in the WordPress world, there are a lot of things being done to simplify this as much as possible.

Built In Functionality

If you do get a request from a website visitor to either provide them a copy of their personal data and/or delete it, WordPress comes with some helpful, out of the box tools to satisfy these requests. WordPress gives a person who is logged into the backend administration portion of the website the ability to submit an email address for data retrieval as well as for data deletion. This means that you as a business should define an internal process for handling such requests and indicate how a person can notify you that they would like for you to fulfill one of these requests. When you submit an email using the WordPress GDPR Tool, WordPress then walks through a confirmation and reporting/deleting process to satisfy the request. The following is a screenshot from the WordPress backend where you can kick off one of these requests, in this case, an Export Request:

When you provide an email address in the Username or email address field and click the “Send Request” button, an email is sent to that email address asking them to confirm that they would like to have a copy of their personal data made available to them. This is what this page would look like once such a request is sent.

This is what the email looks like for the user who has made the initial request to your business. In order for the process to complete, they need to click the link in the email to grant you permission to send them the personal data that is associated with this email. This step is important for a number of reasons, first and foremost it ensures that the person who has made the request is also the person who has access to the email that they have provided. This means that they can legitimately have a copy of this personal data. In a way, it proves they are who they say they are, at least in as much as is necessary for making such a request.

When they click the link in the email a browser window opens to your website and displays a confirmation (shown below) and the status of their request changes from “Waiting for confirmation” to “Send Export Link” (also shown below).

In order to export the data and provide it to the person who has made the request you need to click the “Send Export Link” hyperlink for that user’s request. When you click that link the data is extracted into a zip file that is made available for download from your website. A link to this zip file is included in an email sent to the person who has made the request. The email looks like the following.

When they click on the link provided, the zip file is downloaded onto their machine with an index.html file and an export.json file. The index.html file is provided because it is easily consumed by a human who wants to read a report of the personal data, the export.json file is included because it is easily consumed by software in case the person wants to analyze it with a computer. Both files contain the same data. The HTML file looks similar to the following:

This report will cover all of the base functionality provided by WordPress. It will also include data from plugins that have been written in such a way that they integrate with this functionality provided by WordPress. The Delete Data Request also functions in the same way.

Other Considerations

Typically a WordPress website is built by installing a theme and corresponding plugins to add the design and functionality that you would like for your website. If they are written well, they will include integration with this extraction/deletion request functionality but more often then not, this integration is not included. Even so, there are plugin’s that will include this functionality separate from the WordPress tools. If they do not then this is when things become much more complicated as it means that you would need to get access to your website’s data and manually extract the data for the person making the request. If you are not familiar with MySQL and writing SQL queries you will likely need to hire a developer to perform this task for you. Therefore, it is a good idea that while you are selecting plugins for your website that you make GDPR compliance one of your requirements and confirm that they either integrate with the WordPress Personal Data tool or provide their own Personal Data extraction.

If you need a website for your business or are working on making your website GDPR compliant, we’d love to help you. Please don’t hesitate to request a free quote to speak with us further about your IT needs!


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