Q: I have an account that is closed and I am no longer doing business with the institution. Yet, I was able to access my online account and my personal information is there. Seemingly, when business is conducted and has ended they would delete my personal information. The rationale that the representative offered me was with regard to accessing statements. Fortunately, I have the paper trail. I did ask them to close out my access. What is usual and customary? What is the industry standard?

— Kimberly Humphries

A: Closing out your access is one thing. Of greater concern to me is what companies are doing with our data. Are they selling it? Are they using it to sell products to you?

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The answers to those questions depend on where you live. If you live in Europe your personal data is owned by you, thanks to the General Data Privacy Regulation that the European Union put into effect in 2018. In the United States there is no general law governing data privacy. Instead, separate laws protect certain types of personal data. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act gives you a great deal of control over your health-related data. Other legislation requires financial institutions to explain their information-sharing practices to their customers. And still other laws put some restraints on how marketers can use your data. But generally speaking, when you give personal data to most other companies there are no data privacy protection mandates. There is, in short, no industry standard.

Scary, huh?

Q: I have an HP Envy laptop that sometimes runs very slowly, and every window that I click on displays a (Not Responding) message for several seconds before responding. When this happens and I look at the Task Manager, it says that CPU usage is at about 15% and that about 6.5 gigabytes to 7 gigabytes out of the 8 gigabytes of available memory is being used. Is this enough of an indication that the reason my laptop is slow is that it doesn’t have enough memory for what I am doing? How can I find out if my laptop’s memory can be upgraded? If it can be, is this something I can do myself? I have upgraded the memory in desktop computers, but I am unfamiliar with how to access and upgrade the memory in laptops.

— Mike O’Leary

A: You’re right that it looks like you’ve maxed out the computer’s memory, and I’m sure that’s causing things to slow down. When Windows doesn’t have enough available memory it swaps things out of memory and writes them to storage. That’s a relatively slow process …


Whether you can add memory to your laptop depends on the make and model. And you’re in luck! According to HP, the HP Envy line is upgradeable. You’ll find details for upgrading here: https://support.hp.com/us-en/document/c00820047

First, however, if you haven’t already done so I recommend that you run anti-virus and anti-malware scans to make sure there’s nothing chewing up your memory. Eight gigabytes of system memory should be enough to do most common tasks — email, web browsing, etc. — without undue delay. If you’re getting those delays before you’ve launched many programs I’d suspect malware.

Q: Does the sender of an email know whether I opened it before deleting it? Thank you.

— Greg Carlock

A: The answer is that it depends. There are programs that allow senders to track emails and notify the sender when an email is opened. Three such programs are GetNotify, Mailtrack and Streak.