If you’ve been checking your email lately, chances are you’ve received a few emails from companies like Twitter or Instagram, alerting you to their updated terms of service policies. That’s not just a coincidence; there really has been an uptick in these kinds of emails in the past week or so. That’s because the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), “the most aggressive personal data protections” policy ever, according to Mashable, is about to come into effect.
As Mashable explains, the GDPR is a law aimed at protecting our personal information and private data that companies and online social media platforms access every day. In essence, the law helps make sure companies use your personal information responsibly. The law requires any company that works with user data online to explain “up front and transparently” what they are collecting and why. Users will also be given the right to withdraw consent to the use of their data and to have collected data erased.
In related news, Google was forced to delete certain URLs from its search results after it lost a landmark lawsuit relating to a user’s ability to delete data about them in the U.K. earlier this month.
Even if you don’t live in the European Union, companies are working to ensure their terms comply with the law because any global online company that collects data from any one person living in the EU is held accountable. Moreover, the punishments are significant: for the most serious infractions, companies would be liable to pay fines up to four percent of their annual income.
The changes made to the terms of service policies will differ from country to country, but the gist is that the new law changes the legal definition of personal data to encompass things like IP addresses, location data, and web browsing cookies. Companies will therefore be rewriting their terms to make sure this is clear.
The law comes into effect on May 25, 2018, so if you haven’t gotten those emails yet, you can expect to see them in the next month as companies prepare for the changes. Global companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Google will be the most affected.
The U.S. is not currently considering any rules of this kind. Mark Zuckerberg himself suggested he wouldn’t implement these stricter rules in the U.S. if the law didn’t require it.