GDPR takes effect: What you need to know

The Latest: Complaints vs Google, Facebook under new EU law

Lukasz Olejnik, a privacy expert, dismissed concerns, pointing out that far more common than blocking European Union users was companies such as Microsoft offering GDPR protections worldwide. Companies that already hold users' data have to reach out to customers and ask for permission to retain it. Authorities can fine companies up to 4 percent of their annual revenue, or 20 million euros, whichever is higher, for breaching the rules.

The GDPR applies to everyone from big multinationals to small, family-owned businesses, and from nonprofits to entrepreneurs, irrespective of where they are located as long as their business targets users in the EU. There are still a few more things we will be implimenting, like to allowing you to download your data, but we think we have got there.

Which means that for the last month or so, we've all been getting endless emails from online shops or business we've interacted with, pleading with us to opt in to their mailing lists.

Email inboxes on both continents have filled with new privacy policies and terms of service over the past couple of weeks as companies anticipate the new General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. Instead of separate rules in separate nations across Europe, there's now a single set for the entire EU.

Facebook announced Thursday it will be interrupting users' service to have them review and decide what private information they share online.

Chairman of the watchdog, Max Schrems, even draws parallels between Facebook's actions and North Korea's election process: "Facebook has even blocked accounts of users who have not given consent. They're wording changes", said David Baser, head of Facebook's new privacy division, told CNNMoney. Google is embedding video (from its YouTube service, of course) to further explain the concepts. If you would rather not have these cookies then you can opt-out of marketing cookies, but you will need to opt-in each time you want to watch a video.

"Nowhere else in European law was there, until now, such a wide gap between theory and practice as in data protection", said Prof Caspar.

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There's also a somewhat vague category called "legitimate interests".

The regulations are aimed at personal data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union - but also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU.

'You will also have more opportunities to make a claim for damage caused by the misuse of your data'.

Data controllers will have to immediately notify consumers about the risks and measures taken to mitigate any data breaches, such as changing passwords or cancelling credit cards. "However, it's not too late and taking the right steps now is essential to avoid more confusion and, at worst, a hefty fine". Companies that don't meet the standard face fines of up to €20 million (about United States $23 million, £17.5 million, AU $31 million) or 4% of annual turnover - whichever is higher.

Okay, what are the specific rules a company must follow?

They can also request to have their data deleted or corrected, and will be able to download their data and take it elsewhere, such as from one music streaming service to another.

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