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Why is Data Privacy Important for Individuals?

“Privacy is not something that I’m merely entitled to, it’s an absolute prerequisite.”  

– Marlon Brando 

Data privacy is that branch of data security which is concerned with the ability of an individual to control their personal information, how it is shared among third parties, and it’s legal compliances with the respective privacy laws. 

With technological advancements over time, data privacy has become more and more complex by the minute as more data is being gathered and processed. The level of sophistication at which technology collects data today has brought up data privacy, the most crucial consumer protection issue discussed today.  

Data Privacy vs Data Security… Are they same? 

While both the terms are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. On one hand, data privacy is concerned with the usage and the governance of your personal data – like the policies in place to ensure that the individual data is collected, processed and disseminated by appropriate means. On the other hand, data security is more concerned with protecting the data from malicious attacks and the exploitation of the leaked data. While security is a requirement for protecting your data, it is not enough to address the privacy concerns.  

Laws Showcasing the Importance for Governing Data Privacy Today 

Growing list of initiatives to safeguard data privacy across the globe, tells us the urgency of both the individuals and companies in recognizing the importance and the value of protecting the individual data.
 
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the core of EU’s digital privacy legislation, may not be the first data privacy law, but it certainly marked the first serious intent to place strong safeguards. It’s one such example where the states acknowledge the growing need for safeguarding the privacy of individual data, and bring back more control to them (including the right to be forgotten).

The GDPR created a domino effect, and today we can see the effects of the same in India, when a fresh perspective to our Right to Privacy was given in the landmark judgment of the Puttaswamy case. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India stated that the right to privacy is well protected as a fundamental constitutional right under the articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. This judgement directed the government of India and paved the way for the recent “The Data Protection Bill, 2021”.

A study done by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), says that by 2022, half of the population will have its personal data covered under local privacy regulations, in line with the GDPR. Which is no surprise, since many countries such as Japan, Singapore, Canada, Australia, already have comprehensive data protection laws in place in some form or another. And some countries such as the UK and Brazil’s Data Protection Act and General Law for the Protection of Personal Data, respectively, are quite similar to the GDPR.

Source: DLA Piper : Data Protection Laws of the World 

Why is Data Privacy Important For Individuals? 

We have learnt that the privacy of our data, our individuality has been recognized as a fundamental right by many local laws. These laws have been put in place so that we as individuals feel safe when engaging online with third parties and so that a trust is formed regarding how our data is being handled for various purposes. 

An individual’s data can be misused in a number of ways, if there is a breach in unprotected data or if an individual is unaware on how to control the ways their data is used:

Challenges Faced by Individuals while Maintaining Data Privacy

  1. Control over Data
    Individuals being engaged with multiple online platforms and services simultaneously, may not be aware of how their data is being used and shared among other parties. And they may not even have any say over the same.
  2. Transparency
    Though rare, users often have to provide their personal information regarding their identity to engage with various online platforms; meanwhile the terms and conditions mentioned in their privacy policy may be concentrated and difficult to comprehend. 
  3. Online Tracking
    Users are continuously tracked online. Cookies often keep track of user activities and while most countries have made it a requirement for websites to alert the users beforehand, the users may not be well apprised to what degree the cookies track their behaviors. 
  4. Cybercrimes
    Despite taking all measures to safeguard your data, users may still fall victim to cybercrimes. Hackers for long have found ways to break through encryption, compromise secure systems and steal data, which can then be used to harass or defraud the individual, or the data can be sold to underground parties for a price. The most prevalent form of cyber-attacks today are ransomwares, which is a type of malware from crypto virology that threatens to leak the victim’s personal data or the access to it is blocked unless a ransom is paid.
  5. Social Media
    It has become easier than ever to look up people on social media platforms, and not to mention that social media posts may reveal way more than what users may realize. Along with the depth and the mammoth amount of data that the social media platforms often collect. 
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