These updates are coming just ahead of a major new data privacy law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR goes into effect in the European Union Friday and is probably the strictest protector of digital privacy rights in the world.
The GDPR is essentially a new law that changes how, when and why companies can use customer data. Even though it only applies to the E.U., any company that has any customers in the E.U. has to comply. If they don’t, they could be fined up to 4 percent of their global revenue.
While the updates are mainly lengthy pieces of legalese, there are some important gems hidden in the middle.
GDPR focuses on two main changes to previous data privacy laws that drastically affect you and the companies that collect your data. Under the new law, companies need your consent to collect your data, and you should only be required to give them data that is necessary for their services. (You can also request that any of your data they’ve collected be deleted.)
Your data is important to companies, especially those that thrive on advertising. So the pop-ups and emails you’ve been seeing most likely have a request for consent buried somewhere deep inside. Because let’s be honest, no one reads the terms and conditions.
It’s easy to opt in. Not so easy to opt out.
When questioned by the New York Times, the website said they’d make changes so the language wasn’t so hidden, but many companies have done something similar to Quora's first attempt.
Other sites are using banners that pop-up like an advertisement the first time you visit the website after a policy change. The pop-ups will explain how cookies are used for tracking your browsing history, and if you close the banner and use the site without doing anything, you’re most likely consenting to letting that website track you.
So if you want to keep your data a little more private, don’t immediately click out of that pop-up or delete that email. It’s tempting, but take a second to read them and look for key phrases.
But what if you already have deleted a few things? (Totally on accident, you were meaning to read them later, obviously.)
Well, it might be a little more difficult to find them again, sorry. But some websites are changing the way we can interact with our data.
Now, you can go to the bottom of Twitter’s “settings and privacy” menu, then click on “Your Twitter data.” There, you can see the advertisers that have your info and opt out of sharing that with them, if you so choose.
I was surprised to learn that 643 advertisers have my info, which might explain the enormous amount of ads I've been seeing for eyeglasses — as if my initial glasses purchase was just the inaugural move in a new hobby of eyewear collecting.
Facebook, which has recently been vilified for its flagrant sharing of users’ data, has created something called a “Privacy Shortcut." The shortcut will help you peruse the info you have on your profile, then see how many apps you’ve signed into using the social media behemoth. If you want to opt out of sharing your data with advertisers, you can.
So take control of your data ... or don’t. The good thing is it’s now up to you.