Have you noticed an increase lately in updates and emails from your social media, shopping, or email accounts? Noticed that businesses that you have accounts with (like your bank) are sending you more notices about new privacy policies in the past few months? Are you suddenly getting popup messages about cookies with every site you visit?
Thanks to a massive overhaul to privacy regulations that went into effect in May, companies are required to update their privacy policies. While it may be annoying, it signals a new wave in personal privacy protection and is actually good news for you. In fact, now is an excellent time to take advantage of these changes and do some updating yourself.
I’m sure you’ve seen all the news stories about companies and social media outlets like Facebook sharing your personal information with outside companies. All the changes to privacy policies that you’re seeing are not just a reaction to that. Rather, they have been in the works for a long time in the form of a new law passed in Europe called General Data Protection Regulation (or “GDPR” for short).
GDPR is the most significant change to data privacy in over 20 years. It forces companies to be more transparent about what personal information they collect and what they do with that data. Their privacy policies can no longer be vague and full of legal jargon.
Organizations must be clear, and their policies must be easy to read and understand. Plus, organizations must now ask for your permission to access any of your data and can no longer use a generic release that gives them the rights to all your data in order to buy their goods or use their service.
This new law and others around the world are changing how organizations handle your personal data. GDPR in particular affects any organization that does business with individuals in the EU. While GDPR is specific to EU citizens, most international companies have updated their policies and standards across the board to avoid heavy fines.
All this serves as a reminder to review what information sites may store about you and what they do with that information. So, what do you need to do? Well, you could do what you have probably done in the past, which is nothing, and things will be set for you by the company. However, I recommend that you take this opportunity to review your privacy settings for the sites you visit frequently and reset all your privacy settings on all of your accounts. Take a moment to read what each site asks for before clicking “yes.” You no longer have to be an attorney to understand most of their policies and settings, so it won’t take you too long to do this.
Typically, you will find a few different options that you need to review and set that will help keep your private information private. In most cases, you no longer must agree to receive ALL of a company’s emails or notices. Instead, you can opt in or out of specific ones. If you don’t want them to contact you about special offers or specials, you can now say no while remaining on their general mailing list.
Now is the perfect opportunity to review the hygiene of your personal data. Be sure to go through all your social media and other online accounts, look them over again and change your privacy settings to protect your data.
And when done with yours, help your children or elderly parents reset theirs.
Most of all, remember that when in doubt, “Less is Best.”
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About the author: Patrick Craven is the director for the Center for Cyber Safety and Education (Center), a non-profit charitable trust committed to making the cyber world a safer place for everyone. The Center works to ensure that people across the globe have a positive and safe experience online through their educational programs, scholarships, and research. Visit www.iamcybersafe.org. If you have questions or topic ideas, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org