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Heres why privacy policy updates have been popping up on websites and in your inbox
If you feel like youve been seeing an unusual amount of privacy policy updates popping up all over your favorite websites or in your inbox, youre not going crazy. - photo by Liesl Nielsen
If you feel like youve been seeing an unusual amount of privacy policy updates popping up on your favorite websites or in your inbox, youre not going crazy.

These updates are coming just ahead of a major new data privacy law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR goes into effect in the European Union Friday and is probably the strictest protector of digital privacy rights in the world.

The GDPR is essentially a new law that changes how, when and why companies can use customer data. Even though it only applies to the E.U., any company that has any customers in the E.U. has to comply. If they dont, they could be fined up to 4 percent of their global revenue.

The privacy policy updates are lengthy and annoying (especially when they pop up right as youre in the middle of something), but if you want the option to keep your data more private than it has been, dont click x or delete the email from your inbox just yet.

While the updates are mainly lengthy pieces of legalese, there are some important gems hidden in the middle.

GDPR focuses on two main changes to previous data privacy laws that drastically affect you and the companies that collect your data. Under the new law, companies need your consent to collect your data, and you should only be required to give them data that is necessary for their services. (You can also request that any of your data theyve collected be deleted.)

Your data is important to companies, especially those that thrive on advertising. So the pop-ups and emails youve been seeing most likely have a request for consent buried somewhere deep inside. Because lets be honest, no one reads the terms and conditions.

Its easy to opt in. Not so easy to opt out.

Popular questions-and-answers site, Quora, sent an email recently saying that its privacy policy had been updated, according to a report by the New York Times. At the very end of the document, it said: Your continued use of the service will be considered acceptance of our updated terms.

When questioned by the New York Times, the website said theyd make changes so the language wasnt so hidden, but many companies have done something similar to Quora's first attempt.

Other sites are using banners that pop-up like an advertisement the first time you visit the website after a policy change. The pop-ups will explain how cookies are used for tracking your browsing history, and if you close the banner and use the site without doing anything, youre most likely consenting to letting that website track you.

So if you want to keep your data a little more private, dont immediately click out of that pop-up or delete that email. Its tempting, but take a second to read them and look for key phrases.

But what if you already have deleted a few things? (Totally on accident, you were meaning to read them later, obviously.)

Well, it might be a little more difficult to find them again, sorry. But some websites are changing the way we can interact with our data.

Now, you can go to the bottom of Twitters settings and privacy menu, then click on Your Twitter data. There, you can see the advertisers that have your info and opt out of sharing that with them, if you so choose.

I was surprised to learn that 643 advertisers have my info, which might explain the enormous amount of ads I've been seeing for eyeglasses as if my initial glasses purchase was just the inaugural move in a new hobby of eyewear collecting.

Facebook, which has recently been vilified for its flagrant sharing of users data, has created something called a Privacy Shortcut. The shortcut will help you peruse the info you have on your profile, then see how many apps youve signed into using the social media behemoth. If you want to opt out of sharing your data with advertisers, you can.

So take control of your data ... or dont. The good thing is its now up to you.