National News

Why All the New Terms of Service?

Posted May 2, 2018 5:40 p.m. EDT

Q: This week alone, I’ve gotten several notifications from online services that I use about privacy policy updates. Is this because of the Facebook flap?

A: Facebook’s recent and well-documented issues with protecting users’ personal information prompted the company to announce that it was changing some practices and redesigning privacy settings to make them easier for its users to find and understand. But certain changes were already in the works for Facebook — and many other online services — because of new data privacy rules taking effect next month in Europe.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation goes into effect May 25 and is meant to ensure a common set of digital rights for citizens of EU nations. It requires organizations to notify users as soon as possible of high-risk data breaches that could personally affect them. It also gives citizens the right to obtain copies of the data companies have compiled about them and codifies their right, under certain circumstances, to have their personal data erased (also known as the “right to be forgotten”).

The law also dictates that when a company asks a consumer to give consent to use their personal information, those user agreements and other dense legal forms people tend to click past “should be provided in an intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language and it should not contain unfair terms.” The age of consent itself is set at 16 years.

The GDPR applies stiff financial penalties for those who do not comply and U.S. companies handling the data of Europeans must also follow the rules. Many online services have customers worldwide, and are updating their privacy policies and terms of service to factor in these new European rules — which is mainly why you are seeing so many notifications.

— When to Clear Out Old Downloads

Q: I have an older computer and have been using Windows 7 for many years. As I update software, I have been accumulating installation files in the Downloads folder. Can I just clear the entire folder or may some of them be filling some ongoing function?

A: If you have already added the programs to your computer, you can delete the old installation programs piling up in the Downloads folder. Once you have run the installer files, they just sit dormant unless you need to reinstall the program you downloaded. If you have been using Windows 7 for years, odds are those installer files have outdated versions of the programs anyway.

Before you dump everything, skim the folder’s contents to make sure there are no items in there you need. Next, press the Control and A keys to select all the files at once and press the Delete key to fling them into the Recycle Bin. To erase the contents of the Recycle Bin, right-click its icon and choose Empty Recycle Bin.

The Disk Cleanup tool that comes with Windows can also be useful for dredging up and deleting outdated and unneeded files hoarding space on your hard drive.

To use it, go to the Start menu, type “Disk Cleanup” in the search box and select Disk Cleanup in the results. The program scans the computer and presents a list of file types that can be flushed. Mark your selections and click the OK button for the utility to do its work.

Those with Windows 10 can use the system’s Storage Sense feature to automatically reclaim drive space used by unneeded files.

To set it up, press the Windows and I keys to open the Settings box, select the System icon and then Storage. Once there, you can turn on the Storage Sense function and set up your preferences.