Different branches of European Union have agreed on the shape of the EU's new data privacy law, which means it is likely to be passed early in 2016 and fully enacted within two years. This is not one of those arcane legal documents that have little effect on people's everyday lives. The new rules will drastically change how companies use people's data and perhaps reshape data-based businesses such as advertising and online retail.

The idea of the new regulation is to establish the same data privacy rules across the EU -- something the European Commission says will result in savings of 2.3 billion euros ($2.5 billion) a year for businesses -- but also to hand to users full control of their personal data, which the EU defines broadly as "any information relating to a data subject," or natural person. This means companies will have to explain exactly what information they are collecting, for what purposes and how long it will be retained.

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