Your digital footprint can quickly extend far and wide and be used in multiple ways. Your interactions on Facebook shape the ads you see there. The kinds of films and music you stream may allow online companies to make inferences about your political leanings or religious beliefs. And your health insurer may analyze details about your online shopping habits.
How much control do you have over how companies collect and use your information? And what mechanisms are in place to protect your data against misuse?
If you are in the United States or Europe, the answers vary, which has led to tensions between officials and disputes with companies. In the United States, a variety of laws apply to specific sectors, like health and credit. In the European Union, data protection is considered a fundamental right, which can have far-reaching consequences in all 28 member states.
All the talk about data privacy can get caught up in political wrangling. But the different approaches have practical consequences for people, too.