You may have noticed that you received a lot of email notifications that companies were changing their privacy policies or terms of service. If you have paid attention to the tech world you know that this is in response to the GDPR regulations enacted by the EU on May 25. It may have seemed like everyone and their mother were updating their policies and the general public was the one to pay for that by constantly being bombarded with email after email after email. Fortunately for you those emails have for the most part stopped, so this the end if you just deleted them right?

We’ve all been there wanting to play a new game or to use a new product and what do you get: a privacy policy that you have to accept or you can’t move further. If you ever read one all the way through give yourself a pat on the back and if you understood it take a bow. If you just simply said you accept without reading it and didn’t give it a second thought you are not alone and chances are everyone reading this has done that.

New privacy policies

That privacy policy is a long list of legalese terms and conditions that you almost have to have a law degree to understand. That is of course intentional but one thing that has not been included in the past with those policies is what is done with a user’s data. The data that is collected can potentially help a company target a user with ads by using browsing information to determine your age, sex, interests and many other things.

This is where GDPR comes in. Companies that do business within the EU or with European citizens have been forced to update these policies and the user now has more control and rights when it comes to what a company can do with their information (hence all of the emails telling people that the policies have been updated). The penalties for breaking the law are steep.

Are people going to read them

The emails or notifications that you received about updated privacy policies are going to tell you how your data will be collected and what you can do about it. Yes, you are going to have to read through the policy (and that can certainly take a lot of time and patience) but it is important to know policies, procedures and where you can go to change privacy settings. When you accept the new terms of service (or continue using a service) you are consenting to what is in them. Many companies are banking on people not reading them and just blindly accepting them leaving a status quo of sorts.

Some major companies like Microsoft and Apple have vowed to extend these protections globally but not all have. For the rest of us here in the US that is of little comfort. GDPR only extends to North American companies that do business in Europe, so if a company does not do business there, there is no need to update their privacy policy or change any practice. GDPR protections also do not extend to Americans or Canadians or anyone outside of Europe so Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker or Antonio Tajani are not going to be advocates for us here in the US. That old privacy policy that does its best to say absolutely nothing is still in effect and there is nothing that the user can do about it until appropriate legislation is passed here.

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