Why we should care about online privacy
We produce a nearly endless stream of data in our daily lives. Seventy-seven percent of Americans now own smartphones, up from a mere 35 percent in 2011.
Today we conduct much of our lives on the internet and on our connected devices, yet few people understand the enormous amount of personal information that is collected and shared from our devices and the services we use online. This data can be stored indefinitely, and our personal information can be used in both beneficial and unwelcome ways. Even seemingly innocuous information – such as your favorite restaurants or items you purchase online – can be used to make inferences about your socioeconomic status, preferences and more.
What companies do with consumer data has had a growing concern since privacy advocates shed more light on the amount of data collected, and about the security breaches seen over the past years. When people hear how their data is used, and what can go wrong with their personal information in the wrong peoples’ hands.
The absence of strong online consumer protection laws in the U.S. means that many companies have the opportunity to monitor their users and customers’ personal behavior and sell the data for profit. Consumers need to understand the true value of their information and how it is collected, used and shared in order to make informed decisions and better manage their personal data.
Europe has had a data protection law covering its residents for more than twenty years. But the past twenty years have seen lots of changes in technology and in the way data can help consumers, so the European Union has refreshed the former law – the Data Protection Directive – with a more robust law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
What is the difference between privacy and security?
Security refers to the ways we protect ourselves, our property and personal information. It is the first level of defense against unwanted intruders. Privacy is our ability to control access to our personal information.