The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation goes into effect on May 25, 2018. GDPR replaces the EU Data Protection Directive. GDPR can apply to US-based businesses even if they do not have offices or employees in the EU. It can also reach activities conducted outside the EU.
The Directive did not regulate US businesses unless the collection or processing occurred within the EU (e.g., if a US-based company had a data center in the EU). Now GDPR clearly has stronger extraterritorial reach than its predecessor.
Businesses collecting and using personal data should know their GDPR obligations. Violators of GDPR face steep penalties. Regulators can fine a company up to 20,000,000 euros or 4% of worldwide annual turnover, whichever is higher.