Friday, July 6, 2018

Making Sure Your Personal Data Stays That Way

"We have updated our privacy policy."

Chances are you’ve recently seen this message in emails and on your favorite websites. And chances are you’ve given it the same amount of thought you always give privacy policies: very little. Most of us just want to check the little box and get on with it. But privacy breaches such as the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal are a reminder to take personal data privacy seriously.

On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in the European Union. This new law is designed to give EU residents more control over their personal information and how companies use it. While GDPR doesn't apply to residents of the United States, all companies that handle EU residents' data are required to comply or face heavy fines, which is why you've seen all of those privacy policy updates.

Political and practical concerns make similar legislation in the US highly unlikely for now, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself. You can start by changing your default privacy settings. The Washington Post has a good starter guide for managing your accounts with Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple. While this will result in a less personalized user experience with some features like Google Maps, Microsoft's Cortana, and Facebook's eerily relevant ads, you can rest a little easier knowing at least some of your personal data is just that: personal.