Not Your Average Email Communication

It’s not uncommon to receive emails from a company, especially if you are a frequent customer or client. But when multiple businesses inform you of privacy policy changes at the same time, it can often mean something bigger is happening behind-the-scenes.

The European Union made recent changes to its data privacy regulations (the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR) that went into effect on May 25, 2018. These regulations mandate that companies clearly communicate how and why they are collecting consumer data.

While these regulations directly impact European businesses and consumers, they are still relevant to those of us in the U.S. that utilize international services such as social media, smartphone apps and more. Let’s walk through some common questions about these new data regulations, and what they mean for Americans.

Q: What are privacy policies?

A: Privacy policies explain how a company will collect, use, store and share a user’s sensitive information, as well as other personal data. Historically, these policies have been dense, hard to understand and filled with confusing legal jargon. With Europe’s new data privacy regulations, privacy policies must be easy to understand and accurately outline how and why a consumer’s data will be collected by a business.

Q: If these are European data privacy regulations, why am I receiving these emails?

A: If you receive any emails relating to privacy policy updates, they will most likely be from larger companies that do business in international markets. Social media networks and other services available internationally are required to comply with these new data privacy regulations. As such, larger companies may apply these changes across all customers – sending these emails to their European and American consumers alike.

Q: What impact does this have on me, if any?

A: Many services that American citizens use every day are offered by companies who must comply with these new data regulations. If you use services from international companies like social media networks, smartphone apps or other businesses that serve both Americans and European citizens, you could receive emails to inform you about privacy policy updates, or to get your consent to continue sending you emails.

Q: Do I need to do anything?

A: From a legal standpoint, you are not required to take any formal action related to these changes. However, the new European data privacy regulations were put in place to make it easier to understand what consumers are sharing with a business, and how it’ll be collected and used. Americans can benefit from these changes by reading through easy-to-understand privacy policies to ultimately make informed decisions about the information they share with businesses. Remember, each email you receive represents a company that is currently collecting your data.

What should I do?

  • Know what to expect: Companies that must comply with Europe’s new data privacy regulations are required to have simplified privacy policies that are easy to understand, and clearly outline the data they are collecting from consumers. While these new regulations directly impact businesses that serve European consumers, these changes may also impact U.S. citizens if a company does business in international markets.
  • Take control over your data: You may get a headache just thinking about “reading a privacy policy.” However, this is a great opportunity to review simplified privacy policies so that you can better understand what is being collected from you. Some businesses even allow consumers to choose the data elements collected by a company, as well as opt-in and out of future email communications.
  • PII vs. personal data: Your identity is more than just your Social Security number, birth date and sensitive credit information. In fact, it’s the entire combination of your unique data elements – which includes your “non-sensitive” information, too. Take an all-encompassing approach to protecting your identity by securing all your data, not just the highly sensitive parts.