The Present and Future of Data Privacy

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(Image by Darwin Laganzon from Pixabay)

Data privacy has been an ongoing issue for many companies and their consumers for years, especially since people have become more aware of the importance of data. Considering that a hacker attack occurs once every 39 seconds, it’s easy to see why people are so interested in data privacy.

If you want to learn more about the topic, you can find everything you need to know about it on the Prolifics blog. But for starters, let’s discuss what data privacy looks like now and how it might look in the future, as it keeps changing as time goes by and new regulations are implemented.

Privacy regulations

Due to an increased number of data breaches, people all over the world put pressure on their governments to set comprehensive data privacy legislation. This topic was taken more seriously by some countries than others, but nobody took it more seriously than the EU.

GDPR

In April 2018, The European Union showed they realized the importance of data privacy when they implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The GDPR’s rules and regulations need to be followed by all companies in the EU and those who work with EU countries. If an organization is proven to have broken a GDPR rule and hasn’t followed all the necessary regulations to ensure data privacy, they can get a huge monetary fine.

Here are some of the regulations the GDPR has stipulated to improve data privacy:

Better data handling. All companies are required to handle user data with much more responsibility, accountability, and transparency than ever before.

Defining personal data more clearly. Previous legislation stated that someone’s personal data is their name, address, and photographs. GDPR extended the definition of personal data to include generic data, IP addresses, and biometric data.

Giving data owners more rights. There are many different rights GDPR has given data owners, one of them being the right to access. Under this right, users can find out if and for what purpose their personal data is being used.

The GDPR is currently making data privacy a big priority for countries in the EU and it seems like it will keep doing it for years to come. Perhaps it will have some new and updated regulations, but the general purpose of it will stay the same.

CCPA

Seeing how successful GDPR is at keeping private data safe, the US state of California passed its own regulation called the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA for short.

This regulation states that:

  • Customers have the right to ask businesses to disclose any personal data that is being collected.
  • Businesses have to be transparent with customers about the purpose of collecting data.
  • They also need to ask for permission if they want to use their customer’s data for additional purposes.

Many other countries followed and introduced their own data protection regulations, but none of them are as stringent as GDPR.

International coordination for data privacy
GDPR, CCPA, and similar regulations work well for their respective territories, but what happens when businesses that come from different countries want to work together? Currently, many large-scale businesses are trying to find ways around data protection laws, and this needs to change.

An ideal solution would be to create a single regulation that would represent the global standard for data privacy. Unfortunately, due to today’s geopolitical landscape, it’s impossible to create one internationally recognized governing body that will determine worldwide data privacy laws.

As this would be impossible to achieve on the global stage, the responsibility of how international companies approach data privacy will go to local enforcement. Still, there will never be complete coordination and some will apply much tighter standards than others.

How customers understand data privacy

The data companies collect from their customers is very sensitive information that can be used in multiple different ways. Until recently, a large majority of people weren’t even aware of what kind of data is being collected from them and how it’s being used.

However, these two data breach scandals made people think twice about data privacy.

Facebook – Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The short explanation of this scandal is that in 2018, Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy firm, harvested the data of over 50 million Facebook users. This was done to create extremely targeted ads and it resulted in a $5 billion fine for Facebook.

Google was fined by CNIL.

At the beginning of 2019, French data regulator CNIL fined Google €50 million ($55 million) for violating the EU’s data protection rules. The search engine got this fine because they weren’t informing their users about how their data was being used to customize advertisements.

These two events showed customers that they actually weren’t aware of the amount of data companies collect from them, the ways they obtain it, and how they use it. Naturally, this also sparked great debates about data privacy and concerns whether or not any data is actually safe.

People have learned that they need to be more informed about data privacy and this has led to the public being much better informed. In the future, most people will want to do extensive research about a company’s data privacy policies before they can consider doing business with them.

The growing importance of customer awareness and transparency

What data privacy actually means and how it’s applied will change greatly when companies become more transparent with customers about data collection and use.

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While there have been some improvements in this area, especially in organizations that work under GDPR or similar regulations, the future of data privacy should include more customer awareness. If customer awareness and involvement are raised in the future, not only will it be beneficial to the people whose data is being used, but also the organizations that need their data.

While the two above-mentioned examples of data breaches are best known, they certainly aren’t the only ones, and people nowadays feel like they can’t trust anyone with their data. For companies to win back their customers’ trust, they can only do so through transparency.

One way customers can increase awareness of data privacy is by allowing easier data tracking. People don’t know where all of their data is being collected, which can be a big issue. Companies should provide their customers with multiple ways of tracking how customers got their data.

Final thoughts

Data privacy is taken seriously in some countries, while others still don’t see it as a pressing issue. Even though we can’t be sure what the future holds, we can hope that with stricter regulations in place and better customer awareness, the future of data privacy will look much better than it used to.

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