Data privacy has become more important than ever in today’s digital world. However, tech companies have been playing fast and loose with our data. For that reason, our online privacy is under threat.
In this article, we look at what data privacy is and why it is crucial for internet users.
What is Data Privacy?
Data privacy refers to the proper handling of sensitive information. It deals with consent, notice, and regulatory obligations in data collection, usage, and sharing.
For example, you will not mind sharing your name with a random person on the street but will get skeptical about sharing your home address and mobile number.
However, when creating accounts online or even at the bank, a substantial amount of information about yourself is necessary. Various corporations can now access things like your social security number, health records, and history with the click of a button.
Data privacy deals with how the data you have shared is protected from bad actors. Also, data privacy ensures that your information is used in ways that are not harmful to you or your family.
There are two main classifications for data privacy on digital mediums:
- Personally identifiable information (PII)
- Personal health information (PHI)
PPI deals with general data that can be used to identify a person such as a bank account or credit card number, mobile number, and social security number.
On the other hand, PHI deals with an individual’s health records, which contain past and present hospital visits, conditions, or disorders.
Why Does Data Privacy Matter
When private data is poorly guarded, and it gets into the wrong hands, bad things happen. With the rise of the data economy, the data of individuals and companies is highly valuable.
Due to this, nefarious actors like hackers exploit loopholes to find data breaches to capitalize on. For instance, if the personal data of an individual is collected during a hack, they may lose money and their identity.
Identity theft is a widespread use of stolen data online. Hackers can pretend to be you to access your funds or put other people close to you in danger.
A string of data breaches in 2017 and 2018 opened the doors to major identity theft in the USA. Personal information of 143 million Americans was stolen during the 2017 Equifax hack. Further, over 5 million passport information and 383 million guest records were also stolen during the Marriot breach.
Hackers can also use personal health information to harm users. These harms include petty instances like hackers pretending to be your medical doctor because they have your records.
According to research by Carbon Black, health data sells for a higher price on the dark web compared to general personal data. This high demand is due to the immutable nature of people’s health records.
Beyond the stealing of data, unauthorized sharing or selling of data has also become very rampant in recent years.
The most prominent example of such an event was the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal. During the 2016 US election, Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to harvest the personal information of users for political purposes.
Data privacy is extremely important for the protection of individuals and entities online. Without data protection, using the internet might turn out to be more detrimental than expected.
How the State Promotes Data Privacy
Governments around the world have been racing to pass laws, policies, and regulations to ensure better data privacy. So, how exactly do states protect their citizens?
Major examples of data privacy regulation include the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by the European Union and the US Privacy Act of 1974. These regulations govern how corporations handle people’s data with emphasis on data collection, sharing, and usage.
However, there is a grey area in situations where the same government that has the mandate to protect you, disrespects your data privacy.
Data privacy is an important feature of our rights and freedoms. Without absolute data privacy, you may not be able to exercise freedoms, such as free speech and movement due to excessive surveillance.
This unfortunate reality is the reason why you should take steps to protect your data.
How to Ensure Data Privacy
There are several steps to take to ensure data privacy online. Here are some of the most important steps to take to secure your private information online.
1. Encrypt Data
You should avoid leaving your information lying around in its raw state to prevent infiltration from preying eyes. Encryption is converting data into code to prevent unwarranted access.
Unlike the early days of the internet, encryption is now accessible to everyone. Several tools allow you to encrypt files without much hustle.
2. Back-Up Data
A basic method of protecting your privacy is to have an extra copy of your information. Having a duplicate of your data by backing it up allows you to erase info on missing on stolen devices remotely.
Also, you should consider cloud storage for backups. Storing data on the cloud makes it harder to compromise as it is not on your hardware.
3. Regular OS Updates and Anti-malware Apps
Operating systems are a significant source of security vulnerabilities for devices. Due to this, OS providers send regular updates to fix newly identified security issues.
To always have the best security for your device, it is a data privacy standard to update your operating system regularly.
Moreover, additional anti-malware applications constantly scan the device to remove harmful content that may leak your data.
Also, some tools make it easier for you to manage your data online. Check out our article on the Top 5 Privacy Tools You Can Use To Protect Yourself Online.