Here’s Why You’re Getting Those “Terms of Service” Emails

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Email users have been receiving emails from large companies titled "Terms of Service" which is due to the Europe's new pending law, the General Data Protection Regulation.

If you’ve checked your inbox lately, you’ve seen them: emails explaining that a company you've done business with is updating their terms of service.

In recent weeks, online companies big and small have been sending them out. You might have opened one from Yahoo, Google, Twitter or Facebook.

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It's all because of something called GDPR - or General Data Protection Regulation.

"It’s a new European law but it has implications here in the U.S.," explained Mike Morgan, a lawyer that handles global privacy and cybersecurity for McDermott, Will and Emery.

"The law includes significant penalty provisions - authorizing penalties and fines in the billions for large companies," said Morgan.

It's the reason why companies are taking the new regulations so seriously.

The new European law asks companies to better explain to consumers the data that they collect and ensures that they use the data they collect in a responsible way.

"There’s specific obligations to comply with it with respect to European residents, but many [companies] are just deciding that they want to update their general terms of use and their privacy policy that applies around the world," said Morgan.

In other words, it’s easier for a company to have one set of guidelines for all users, no matter where they live.

This means even though we don’t have the same strict privacy laws here in the U.S., we’re benefiting from the European protections.

"GDPR is more consumer friendly than most U.S. privacy laws," explained Morgan.

One provision some eagle-eyed email recipients have noticed: some companies, like Oath, which now owns Yahoo,  are asking consumers to give up their rights to class action lawsuits.

So, what can you do if you don’t agree with the new terms and conditions?

"If you don’t agree with the terms, the best thing you can do as a consumer is take your business elsewhere," concluded Morgan.

GDPR is making that easier as well. The law says consumers can download their personal data at any time and have their information erased from company servers in a timely manner.

The new law goes into effect May 25, 2018, so expect to see a bunch of emails until then.

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