What Is Data Protection and Why Is It Important?

Data security

We think of data protection today as limited to our data digital data – online or just sitting there on our laptops or smartphones. Data has always been important to us. Data is information and we’ve always made attempts to protect certain information throughout history. Data is powerful and people who have access to the right data can make money from it or hold a lot of sway, depending on what kind of data (or information) is at stake. We’ve been holding filing cabinets in offices under lock and key and keeping important documents in safety deposit boxes to keep it from getting lost, stolen, or seen by prying eyes. Your information, your data, is precious and powerful and we need to understand that we need to protect it and keep ourselves from giving it away freely. If you knew how much information about you is publicly accessible to anyone from anywhere in the world, you’d be terrified. Head over to Nuwber, type in your name and last name (or even just your mobile phone number) and you’ll get an idea of what we’re talking about.

Data protection and privacy is important for individuals and, perhaps even more so, for businesses. Businesses hold onto large amounts of valuable data which could compromise their operations and the privacy of their customers, which is why the issue of data protection is so serious.

What is Data Protection?

Data protection is about how information is handled (or should be handled), depending on how important it is. Meeting someone at a party and telling them your name and what you do for a living when they ask is suitable for that context. You’d be comfortable sharing that information with your newly-made acquaintance. On the other hand, if that stranger at a party asks you for your name, Social Security Number, and residential address, you’d be more than hesitant to share that and would perhaps back away slowly with a raised eyebrow and an increased heartbeat. Some of us might handle that differently – it depends on the individual, we guess. But those questions are completely normal if you’re at a bank and filling out a form to open a bank account. The kind of information they require about you to add to their database is a lot more sensitive. Still, you trust them and you trust them to keep this information private and not share it with others, right?

What’s the Difference between Data Security and Data Privacy?

These are two terms which can be used interchangeably, but while they’re similar, they’re distinct from each other. Data security is the protection of data from criminal activity and deliberate hacks. Data privacy, on the other hand, is how data is legally gathered, stored, and used.

Both these concepts are important in their own ways. For companies and individuals, it’s easier to focus on data security. Hackers, phishing scams, IP spoofing, password cracking, seem to be more immediate threats, and with good reason. These forms of cyberattacks have been rising dramatically recently. Data privacy, however, leaves people and companies a little less confident in terms of knowing how to maintain their privacy and autonomy.

How Is Data Privacy Managed?

Data privacy is managed differently in different parts of the world. In certain countries with federal laws, like the US, the laws on privacy may vary depending on which state you find yourself in. This differs from the European Union, where data privacy is managed across all member states by the General Data Protection Regulation law (GDPR).  While the United States follows a more decentralized approach when it comes to data privacy, both individuals and companies need to be aware of their rights, depending on the state that they’re in, and take all the precautions that they can to protect the privacy of their data.

Who Can Access My Data?

When you start to think about which companies have access to your data online, you could easily end up going down a rabbit hole of data breaches, hearings regarding data privacy and data leaks, how companies use your data both ethically and unethically, and so on. Data makes money. Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, even online news sources, all log your data when you browse their sites or use their platforms. This happens even closer to home, since your internet service provider probably sells your data, too.

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Have you ever heard of a US surveillance program, Prism? Many major companies were named in this project – companies that participated and shared your data with Prism without your knowledge. Google and Facebook were two of our “favorite” companies who allowed Prism access to your data. They were named in leaked government documents, yet they deny participating in the program.

Third party apps also gain access to your data, whether you allow them to do this willingly (you often don’t know what you’re in for) or if you’ve just clicked and accepted terms and conditions without thinking about it. How often have you logged in to a new site or service by clicking the “Log in with Google” or “Log in with Facebook” button? While it saves you the hassle of creating an account on that app, they gain access to data that Facebook or Google already has about you. Companies like Facebook and Google are making money from your countless hours of browsing and online behavior.

If you think about how much information data giants like Apple and Amazon have about you, including your credit card details, you’d hope that your sensitive data is kept safe. However, data breaches are a common occurrence. Even if you deactivate your accounts with these companies, your data is still saved. When breaches occur, your data becomes available to hackers and cybercriminals of all sorts.

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