GDPR: Internet users receive huge torrent of emails from companies they have interacted with in the past

Many of the messages talk about new privacy policies or suggest they are being done because they care about you so much – but that is not true

Andrew Griffin
Monday 30 April 2018 18:06 BST

Internet users are receiving a torrent of emails in recent days that will likely continue in the coming weeks.

The messages are all the result of a sweeping change in how data protection works. But many of them don't make that immediately clear.

Most of the messages follow a familiar format. Their subject line is usually an emotive message about opting in, or a general one about a new data policy; when you click, the message will tell you why you should opt in and then give you reason to do so.

The senders are probably mostly familiar, too. They will all be coming from companies you have engaged with in some way in the past, running from the quickest interaction like buying something once to companies you deal with every day.

They might not look immediately inviting, especially since they are mostly asking for permission to send you more emails. But they are important.

Without the explicit opt-in that they ask for, they will not be be allowed to send any more emails to you. In some cases, that might be a blessing, and the introduction of the new privacy rules can be a helpful time to unsubscribe from emails that you no longer want to receive.

But it will be important to opt-in to any companies that you do enjoy or benefit from receiving emails from.

The emails are a reminder of just how valuable your data and your email address is. The companies are only sending them because they are very keen indeed to be allowed to keep sending you emails.

The new messages are coming as a result of GDPR, the new European rules about data privacy and regulation. Those new rules require that people explicitly opt in to have their email address stored and used, and so without getting that they will be

Breaking those laws carries heavy fines. Companies can be hit with charges of €20 million or 4 per cent of their turnover if they don't keep to the new protections.

And GDPR kicks in on 25 May, meaning that companies need to get your consent before then or will be breaking the law if they continue to send emails after it.

Those rules are wide-ranging and affect everyone who stores information about – but, for many people, the emails might be the first sign that something is about to happen.

The messages don't often make that entirely clear, instead simply saying that the companies have a new privacy policy that needs to be updated. Sometimes they will include emotive messages saying that they have chosen to send the email because they care about your personal data – and while that might be true, they would have to send them anyway.

The rules have also brought changes at all of the major technology companies. Facebook, for instance, has been forced to show messages to all of its users to ask them whether they still consent to being tracked.

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