Future Tense

Updates to My Privacy Policy

Man at laptop waving while sending emails.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Thinkstock.

Thanks to the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation, you’ve probably received emails from every service you’ve ever signed up for alerting you to their privacy policies. Konstantin Kakaes decided it was time for him to update his contacts too.

Dear everybody who has sent me an email since April 22, 2004, the day I got a Gmail account—

I am informing you that I hold your data on my laptop, on roughly eight external hard drives varying in size from a pack of cards to a good-size high school textbook, and about five old laptops that probably don’t work anymore but might. I also keep copies on some unknown number of servers that Google maintains on my behalf in Finland, Taiwan, Chile, and Mayes County, Oklahoma, as well as 11 other data centers around the world. I printed a few of your messages out. They are mixed in with other papers in boxes in my parents’ basement. In a few cases, I have stored a copy in my brain, using neurons, though I’m really not sure how.

I want to give you the best possible experience to ensure that you enjoy my service today, tomorrow, and in the future. It is also my goal to be as open and transparent as possible with my users about the personal data I collect to provide that service, how it is used, and with whom it is shared.1

I am contacting you today to let you know that I will be making some changes to my Privacy Policy, which will be effective from May 25. These changes will reflect the increased transparency requirements of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (known as the GDPR).

As I continue to expand my offerings and grow my global footprint, I am updating my privacy policy to make it unified across my domains and even more transparent and easy to understand.2 I believe you should always know what data I collect from you and how I use it, and that you should have meaningful control over both.3

You can choose to no longer send me any emails. You can ask me to delete old emails, but I may or may not do so. I have the final say about whether and how I process your personal data.

Thank you for being part of the community of people who have sent me an email.

If you are a friend with whom I’m in regular touch, who forwarded me a link to something you believed to be amusing or insightful, I am using your data to be amused or gain insight, precisely as you intended.

If you are a friend whom I really like but we have fallen out of touch and you sent me an email to update me about your life and ask about mine, I am using your data to be glad that you are doing well and to feel guilty about not replying sooner, because you really wrote a lovely note and I was in a hurry when I got it and didn’t want my reply to be cursory, so I waited until I had some time, and then I mostly forgot about it but remember from time to time, with greater frequency than you suspect, but now more stuff has happened to me, so it would take longer to write back properly, but maybe I’ll see you next time I’m in the city I think you live in, though maybe you’re not there any more. I’ve been trying to avoid Facebook so I’m not sure.

If you are a public relations professional who has sent me a message trying to get me to write about a client of yours even though it’s a subject I never write about and you’ve also sent the email to several thousand other journalists and you’ve sent me five reminders over the course of a week and you affect a tone as though you were one of those friends who were real friends but to whom I haven’t spoken in a while, I am using your data to get very annoyed with you, but not replying because that would probably only exacerbate the problem.

If you are a merchant of some sort who has emailed me about a discount you are providing for a limited time, or some items that you believe I might want to purchase, based on data of mine that you have, I am using your data to be annoyed, mostly, but sometimes to do as you wanted and to take you up on that limited-time offer, against my better judgment, and so I’m using it to buy something that I at least sort of wanted and to make you a bit richer.

If you are a newsgathering organization who sends me frequent updates about the state of the world, I sometimes use your data to get depressed, and sometimes to better inform myself about things that are happening or have happened out there in the world, but often I don’t use it at all because I get so many such messages that they just accumulate, bold-faced, on my hard drive, unread. (This applies to the merchants above, as well.)

If you are a member of my immediate family, I am using your data in order to agree with you in all respects, as I love you and think you make very good points.

If you are a former girlfriend, I am no longer using your data in any way, as that would be weird, but since I save all of my old emails as a matter of course, it would also be weird to selectively delete yours, so the exchange of 47 emails between me, you, and four of your friends about where to get brunch remains, along with your other data, stored on a variety of digital media around the globe, indefinitely. I am mostly forgetting about it except when the brunch emails come up in the course of trying to find an email address of someone who has a similar name to one of your friends, in which case I am using your data to feel some combination of nostalgia and regret, combined with the conviction that comes with time that we are indeed not at all right for each other and I hope you’re doing great!

If you are a website of some sort that emailed me with a link to reset my password because I forgot the old one again, because you had forced me to come up with some odd combination of typographic characters, I am using your data to reset my password so that I can log onto your website, which I don’t visit all that often, though I might visit it more often if you didn’t have such convoluted password requirements.

If you are a past, present, or future colleague, source, or other person who has contacted me in a professional capacity, I am using your data to become a better associate employee contemporary.

If you are a friend who is or was about to have a book come out, and have sent me an email telling me to buy your book, I am using, or did use, your data to buy your book, because I’m honestly excited to read it.

If you are a friend who invited me to a party, I am using your data to go to that party, if I possibly can, and if I didn’t come to the party because I said I was out of town, then I really was out of town.

If you are an airline, music venue, bus or train company, or theater, and have emailed me an “electronic ticket,” I am using your data as a token.

If you are a friend who wrote to wish me a happy birthday, I am using your data to increase my birthday happiness by a small, but discernible, amount. Thank you.

If you are a large technology company that sent me a boilerplate email about the GDPR, I am using your message to partially plagiarize some of the above passages.

I hope that the above options will help you understand how I use your data; if you believe your correspondence does not fit into any of the categories, or have any questions about this update, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

P.S.: I have all my old text messages too.