If you’re like us, most of those messages are from apps you used once, five years ago.
And, if you’re like us, you probably delete those emails without reading them.
What’s going on?
For years, websites and apps have been collecting and storing users’ data behind the scenes. Often, this information is used the way you’d expect: to contact you for fundraising, to send you newsletters, and so on. Occasionally, this data is sold to advertisers.
In 2016, the European Union passed a rule called the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.
The GDPR has three major consequences that will change the landscape of the internet:
- To collect and store data about a user, companies must get their explicit and informed consent. This means you’ll begin to see a lot more check-boxes and confirmation prompts when you sign up for something on the web.
- Companies may no longer use your data for purposes. This means if you choose to sign up for a company’s newsletter, your address may not be sold to advertisers or mailing-list companies.
- Companies must give users a way to see their data, download it, and revoke access. Giants like Google and Facebook have already introduced tools for this; smaller companies are still developing these features.
Here’s the kicker:
This new rule doesn’t only affect European companies. It affects any business, service, or website with users in Europe. Thanks to the nature of the internet, that means basically everyone.
And if a company doesn’t comply?
The maximum fine is 4% of the company’s annual revenue, or 20 million Euros, whichever is higher.
The first day of GDPR enforcement is today, May 25, 2018. As you would expect, many companies have put off their compliance efforts until the last minute, which explains the surge of emails you’ve received this week.
What do these changes mean for you, the user?
In the short term, not much — besides a flooded inbox and a few more clicks to sign up for online services.
In the long term, it’s hard to say. This is a new frontier in the internet era, and experts are unclear how some of the finer points of this legislation will be applied in practice.
One thing is for certain: these rules will give you more control over your online identity. That should give you a little more peace of mind on the web.
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