A Guide to Understanding the GDPR

If you’ve gone on the internet recently then you’ve probably heard about all the trials and tribulations that have come along with data capturing (personal information of browsers on the internet). You can’t go very far within the last year without hearing about it. It has become the overwhelming obligation of many political bodies around the world to regulate tech giants, often saying that there is just too much power in their hands. Whether you agree or not with this assessment, we’re on the precipice of a very big regulation.  No doubt you’ve heard of the GDPR? If you haven’t then here’s the basic idea. The EU had been working from 2012 to 2016 to come up with a set of rules for tech companies on how they can handle sensitive information they had captured from browsers like email addresses, names, phone numbers, credit card information, etc. Starting in 2016 they gave companies two years to become compliant with these regulations or face the consequences. Luckily for many browsers of the internet, this applies to any other companies that operate outside of Europe.  This list would include the massive companies with a global reach like Amazon, Google, and Facebook (including many others). Don’t get me wrong, companies in other countries won’t have to be totally compliant with all regulations being that they their bases of operation are regulated by other rules but this is a good start. The idea of these regulations is that hopefully other countries will follow suit. This will have to be determined by legislation within countries where tons of tech companies live (a lot are based in the U.S.). This is the first step in protecting everyone’s personal information. By now you may be thinking how this process of capturing information actually works.  Well let’s dive into a little bit about how this all works so you can understand the technical side of things and what information this applies to.

From any given site, your information can be tracked in various ways.  The main way is the information you have to fill out through various forms on any site.  Imagine signing up for Facebook and what information you have to give before your account is created.  Basic stuff like your email address, your name, your location, and potentially your phone number. To be able to recognize you next time you log back in, all this information is saved on a server. This also happens when you start browsing; anytime you look at something or like something this information is stored on a server so to better gear your experience when you are browsing next time. The problem with this is that this information is all compiled to assess your browsing habits (not just on Facebook but everywhere else as well) overall so advertisements can be targeted for your specific habits. This is done many times over on most of the sites that you visit. This is also just one side of it, based on the forms that you fill out. The other way that information is compiled is in the form of cookies.

What is a cookie you may be asking? Essentially, the idea is that when you visit any site, it creates something called a session.  A session is a piece of information stored on the server of the given site that holds information for you temporarily while you are browsing on a site. This is very beneficial for a browser meaning that everytime you change to a new page on a website it doesn’t require you to log back in again.  As I mentioned though, these are temporary pieces of information that are deleted once the session has ended (you leaving the site). The counterpart (rather they work in unison) to this is a cookie. Cookies are pieces of information that store your browsing information of any given site but instead of being stored on a server, they are embedded on your computer as little pieces of information (tiny little data files). This means that when you go back to a site sometime later it can load faster because certain files don’t have to be loaded again and your browsing experience will be that much better.  The unfortunate part is that as good and useful as cookies are, they can also be used to store embedded information from advertisers and tracked. This information is again compiled (being that cookies show everywhere that you have gone) to understand your browsing habits in depth and target advertisements specifically based on information you have filled out and what searches you have made. It even goes as far as to compile search parameters you might have made, like certain offshoot data like if you searched for “bald guy from matrix movies”. This information is compiled within your personal data set to understand what you might be more likely to look for.  As weird as it sounds, it can all be used to sell to you better.

 

The creation of these regulations is meant to better protect your privacy by taking away the ability for companies to be able to give this information away and also get your permission to actually use it.  When you sign up for something you’re going to have to approve it first before anyone can use it in a potentially malicious way. For European citizens, they will even be given the ability to make request to companies to disclose what information they have on them.

Being that this is not based in the U.S. we can’t say entirely what this is going to mean for Denver SEO and Denver web design companies. If your company happens to based internationally then it’s probably best to look into this.  One thing is for certain; with this change we can expect eventual changes within the U.S.  There’s not direct timeline but once a snowball starts to roll, you know how it goes.