The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a comprehensive data privacy and protection regulation that applies to individuals within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). Enforced since May 25, 2018, the GDPR is designed to empower individuals regarding the control and protection of their personal data and to harmonize data protection laws across EU member states.

Key principles and components of the GDPR include:

1. **Territorial Scope:**
– The GDPR applies to organizations that process personal data of individuals within the EU and EEA, regardless of whether the processing takes place within the EU or if the organization is based outside the EU.

2. **Personal Data Definition:**
– The GDPR defines “personal data” broadly as any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person. This includes names, identification numbers, location data, online identifiers, and factors specific to an individual’s physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural, or social identity.

3. **Data Subjects’ Rights:**
– The GDPR grants individuals (“data subjects”) specific rights over their personal data, including the right to access, rectify, erase (“right to be forgotten”), and restrict the processing of their data. It also includes the right to data portability and the right to object to certain processing activities.

4. **Lawful Basis for Processing:**
– Organizations must have a lawful basis for processing personal data. Lawful bases include the necessity of processing for the performance of a contract, compliance with legal obligations, protection of vital interests, consent, the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority, and legitimate interests pursued by the data controller or a third party.

5. **Data Protection Officer (DPO):**
– Certain organizations are required to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) responsible for overseeing GDPR compliance. The DPO ensures that the organization processes personal data in compliance with the regulation.

6. **Data Breach Notification:**
– Organizations must report data breaches to the relevant supervisory authority without undue delay and, where feasible, within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach. Data subjects must also be notified without undue delay if the breach is likely to result in a high risk to their rights and freedoms.

7. **Privacy by Design and Default:**
– GDPR promotes the principles of privacy by design and default, encouraging organizations to integrate data protection measures into their systems and processes from the outset.

8. **Data Transfers:**
– The GDPR restricts the transfer of personal data to countries outside the EU/EEA that do not ensure an adequate level of data protection. Specific mechanisms, such as Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) or binding corporate rules, may be used to legitimize such transfers.

9. **Supervisory Authorities:**
– Each EU member state has a supervisory authority responsible for enforcing and overseeing GDPR compliance. These authorities have the power to impose fines for non-compliance.

10. **Penalties:**
– The GDPR introduces significant penalties for non-compliance, with fines of up to €20 million or 4% of the global annual turnover, whichever is higher.

The GDPR has had a profound impact on the way organizations handle personal data and has set a global standard for data protection. It emphasizes accountability, transparency, and the protection of individuals’ privacy rights in the digital age. Organizations that process personal data subject to the GDPR must ensure compliance with its requirements to avoid legal consequences and protect individuals’ rights.