Privacy is the word on everyone’s lips these days. The current climate is awash with discussions, debate and stories surrounding the use of our data by big companies in particular. Such is its standing as the hot topic of the day, the news cycle is constantly buzzing with the latest scandal (think Facebook and Cambridge Analytica) or update to unpick. It’s no surprise, given that data privacy is something that affects all of us. But how and why? What is data privacy anyway? As Data Privacy Day is upon us once again, it’s the perfect time to dive into these basic questions and get a better understanding of how this topic touches our lives on a daily basis.
What is data privacy?
Let’s start out simple. Or rather, as simple as it gets with data privacy. The often-discussed terms refers simply to the ability an organization or individual has to determine what data in a computer system can be shared with third parties. After all, who doesn’t want to be in control of who or what has access to their information? In today’s world, we all share so much of ourselves online (much of which we do without even realising). It is an inevitable part of the digital and information age. But other companies and businesses have a responsibility to use this data according to laws, which have become much stricter in recent years through legislation such as GDPR (more on that later) and pressure from many protest groups.
What is Data Privacy Day?
It’s a holiday observed in many countries across the world annually on January 28th. The central purpose of Data Privacy Day is to raise awareness of information protection and wider issues regarding data privacy and misuse across the digital arena. It is also used to promote best practice for data protection, teaching the dos and don’ts of online data. Data Privacy Day has an overall educational outlook that seeks to deliver all of the above to consumers, families and businesses.
What is GDPR?
The chances are you’ve heard a lot about GDPR already. Either in the news, of through the humongous barrage of emails received by users just before the legislation came into force last May. Despite this, many people, average users in particular, are unsure on its exact meaning or significance. GDPR stands for general data protection regulation. To put it in layman’s terms, it is essentially an EU regulation that sees people having to clearly opt in to having their information retained by a business and shared with third parties – including those who had previously already done so. Failure to comply with such a change came with a promise of heavy punishments, which leads us directly onto our next point…
What’s the latest?
Ever since GDPR came into force last year, people have been waiting for a large fine to be dished out to one of the big players. Last week, that’s exactly what happened. Google were handed massive a fine of 50 million euros by a European regulator in France, as a result of its failure to adequately comply with the new regulations. Google have been on the wrong end of such fines in the past of course, including an eyewatering antitrust fine of over 5 billion just last year for supposedly ‘abusing’ its standing in the smartphone market. All of this acts to show businesses as much as users that data privacy and protection is to be taken very seriously indeed.
Why should I care?
As we have laid out above, this is something that affects you whether you are a business owner or regular digital user. If you are the former, you need to be on top of your own data protection practices and process in order to avoid any unwanted attention further down the line. After all, if you are in possession of personal data, then you ultimately have a responsibility to use it properly. For users, the issue is multi-faceted. However, it could be seen to boil down to a simple matter of personal privacy. If you want to be in control of who has your information and how it is used, then utilise all the tools at your disposal to take that control. Received a marketing email from a big company you’ve never openly shared your data with? Don’t be afraid to look into it. Do your research, be wary of what you put out there, and always be vigilant.
There can be no more relevant topic of discussion in the 2019 digital world than information and data privacy. It can seem a daunting issue to tackle, but even a simple understanding can put you in a much better position to exercise some sort of control over your online privacy. Take the points we’ve laid out above, dig a little deeper and take it from there. Happy Data Privacy Day!
Words: Connor Davey