Stage 1 is when they want to fix it and they express wishes that the industry changes their ways. Stage 2 is the cookie law and Smartphone USB charging. A very vague regulation or law is implemented as a sort of warning for the industry to better go and fix it. Stage 3 is nuclear; GDPR.
The smartphone industry is as mentioned at Stage 2. The EU expressed wishes to reduce the charger garbage, nobody did anything, so they simply put out a regulation that almost literally just says "all smartphones need one common charger". Largely this has been microUSB but vendors are switching to microUSB.
The regulations are to my knowledge and experience also employed and enforced in a similar manner; first you get a nice letter informing you that your website is in violation of X. Ignore that or get aggressive towards the regulatory body and you get a less nicely worded letter with a threat of a fine. Continue that path and you get a fine.
The ultimate goal is that everyone should be compliant but it's okay to be occasionally not as long as you are willing to be helpful and fix it immediately.
>Do you really think they need the statutory authority to fine someone 20M EUR for their semi-commercial side project that made $1k lifetime total? If not, then why give it to them?
They don't you have a legal right for a proportional punishment. Unless your little side project caused damages the fine will be appropriate such that you can pay it without going bankrupt. And if it did you'll have to pay those damages on top of course.
>The GDPR applies to natural persons too. Imagine if it didn't! Facebook could just contract all the creepy stuff to a sole proprietorship operated by Mark Zuckerberg...
It only sorta does, it only does not apply to natural persons while they don't engage in commercial activity.
And a sole proprietorship is to my knowledge a legal person, even if the only natural person involved is 1. (I would know, I am basically one, or rather, small business operator would be the more accurate translation, which also has limits on turnaround and profit)
The sole proprietorship would have less rights than the person behind it and has no option but to fully implement the GDPR in any project or product. A natural person on the other hand, publishing a hobby on the internet with no commercial or business activity (which are different things in german law and you can certainly run a commercial activity without ever touching money or forming contracts).
The GDPR indeed says the punishment should be proportional; but what does that mean to you? Are you sure it would mean the same thing to a regulator? A regulator who dislikes you? If they said that 10k email addresses and MD5-hashed passwords leaked from someone's game server was a worst-case breach, then I'd say that was ridiculous; but I don't see what in the text of the law lets me say that it's objectively false.
The USA has no concept of a separate entity for sole proprietors. It's just you, even if you're trading under a business name. If the GDPR didn't apply to that, then that would be a massive loophole, so I'm pretty sure it does. In any case, the real question is perhaps commercialness, where (a) lots of hobby projects have some small commercial element, ads or donations or a tee shirt or whatever (and to be clear, I do think privacy regulation should apply to them, just more specific regulation); and (b) I strongly suspect the GDPR applies to some noncommercial activity too--would the EU let a political group pull a Cambridge Analytica with all volunteer staff? I haven't researched that, though.
If I lived in Germany, then I'd probably have pretty good faith in my regulators. But imagine the example of that Soros-linked group in Hungary (which I'd edited my first comment to add, so you may have missed it). I don't think that's hypothetical--political organizations keep lots of data, so I suspect that somewhere, a group is making plans to comply with the GDPR, as interpreted by regulators whose government considers them "enemies of the state". What would you do in their place? Wouldn't you wish the text of the regulation gave the regulators less room to maneuver?
Well, they are seperate entities so the loophole exists for how the US handles it but in the EU there is no loophole.
>In any case, the real question is perhaps commercialness
Last I checked you don't need commercial elements like ads, donations or anything like that to be considered commercial. Running your own git server with open registrations would be considered commercial (there is additional seperation in that you don't have to pay taxes unless you are profit-interested).
>I strongly suspect the GDPR applies to some noncommercial activity too-
Monitoring of any kind that is strictly outside private interest.