What is the Future of Personal Data?

, Posted in Blog,

The ongoing public debate around personal data is now more intense than ever. Rushing from the way-too-cautious data privacy enthusiasts to those willing to personalize the Web at all costs, people discover the new way of trading their personal information for comfort and services. The cookies-consent boxes on every website quickly became a new norm, although not many people fully understand what their consent is needed for, if they even care about it. But the overall development of the new data privacy standards in the spotlight of the COVID-19 pandemic goes even faster, reacting to challenges of the time and making the future only more unpredictable. However, analyzing the main trends can help us to make an educated guess about what will happen to our data and what we should do ourselves to protect it.

The Value of Data

Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves.” This quote is especially true when you know it comes from the very inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. His brainchild, what we now know as the Internet covering the whole planet, changed and somewhat intensified the role of data in how we organize our societies. Internet-based services need data to operate and to be useful. Traditional companies which are forced to keep up with the competition show a great interest in that too. Therefore, collecting, analyzing, and using data stands at the core of the modern economy.

Personal data of people define how new products and services are being developed and deployed, how marketing is targeting the audience, and also how the companies assess the risks. Social media and online cookies are designed to collect every little bit of the personal data they can because lack of such creates a major threat for the whole enterprises they work with. Often, people gladly agree to any data collection to proceed with their tasks not realizing the real value of what they are giving away. Not everyone realizes what might be the consequences of that either.

How do Data Brokers Collect Information?

Gold miners of the modern era, data brokers, know surprisingly a lot about you. Being a middleman between the online services and marketers selling things, they make a fortune with something that belongs to you —  your personal data. 

What are data brokers doing to find that information? Funny enough, they don’t have to work too hard because most of the things are already in public access. They just know how to fetch the data from databases and whom to give it to. Your online cookies and browser activity, purchases using a retailer loyalty card or court records, as well as your posts and likes on social media all transform into a hard currency when data brokers file your consumer profile and send it over to those interested. Don’t get surprised seeing a laundry detergent ad online when you almost run out of it: data brokers also know what brand you bought last time. 

In the world of targeted advertising data, such as your income, gender, and home address, are vital for the whole marketing campaign to be successful. Some data miners cross the line of what’s allowed and use malicious ways to obtain the information, including spamming the spyware or even hacking the databases. Minimizing the amount of data you leave in public makes their job harder, but never impossible.

Why is the Question about Protecting Personal Data so Important?

“Having nothing to hide” is not enough of an argument for a careless attitude towards personal data. In fact, most people don’t have a clear idea of what life without privacy would be. In the same way, they don’t understand what type of data is collected and how this data is used. The Internet, full of irritating ads reflecting all our searches and interests, is also a nest for all possible dangers that are fueled by data obtained. From a legitimate targeted ad that can manipulate our consumer or social behavior to the corrupt governments using the services for some shady mass surveillance, there are myriads of implications of personal data misuse. Companies responsible for keeping our data, along with confidentiality of our private lives, allow security breaches to happen by not taking the right measures to protect it. As a result, hundreds of millions  of user accounts are being compromised and the data that we should otherwise keep close to ourselves becomes an asset of bad actors. 

World’s Biggest Data Breaches & Hacks
Screenshot source: informationisbeautiful.net

Once leaked, this personal data is impossible to gain back, the same way as everything we do online has no chance to be erased from history. This raises the questions of the future use of all datasets in hands of third-party, including a probability of creating digital clones or not letting a deceased person ever truly “die” online. The future is shaped by ourselves, and the one created by careless to their data individuals seems downright spooky. Luckily, another group of people, particularly those dealing with Internet privacy issues, has already started a movement towards better data protection that is set to change the world, again. 

What is GDPR?

2018 was a truly big year for the data protection advocates. The world’s first legislation that regulates personal data operations came into action in European Union under the name of General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. It changed the way organizations treat the data they have on their customers —  and not just in the EU. GDPR sets up clear rules for collecting, processing, deleting, sharing, and using the data of customers from the EU, regardless of where the data collector comes from. It became a role model for all the data protection acts around the globe, such as The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and similar initiatives in Brazil, Japan, or Kenya. 

Think of the cookies-consent boxes we’ve mentioned earlier and you will realize that it was GDPR that made them mandatory. But it isn’t just about the cookies. Essentially, GDPR protects the customers and their data from unauthorized and unlawful use, giving them a right to know exactly how their data is being processed and for which purposes. This also includes a “right to be forgotten” when the customer decides to stop using a service. Finally, it helps the companies to maintain a high-level data protection policy, unifies the legislation in all countries under GDPR, as well as provides future-proofing for the technological systems designed to store and protect personal information.

The Main Principles of Protecting Data

GDPR and the similar acts issued in other countries aren’t a collection of fixed rules only. They mainly set a framework of what is allowed to be done with people’s data and give the directions for enhancing people’s rights regarding their privacy. These directions constitute the main principles of protecting data most progressive countries seem to agree with:

  1. Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency. Companies must inform customers about all operations with their data to comply with the laws and gain trust. 
  2. Purpose limitation. Data can only be collected and used for purposes that are specific, legitimate, and open to the public. 
  3. Data minimization. Only the minimum amount of data needed to achieve the processing purpose can be collected, and not the associated information about a person.
  4. Accuracy. Customers have a right to erase incorrect information about themselves because the organizations are obliged to keep it with utmost accuracy. 
  5. Storage limitation. Companies can only keep the data for as long as it’s required for their operations, or as long as a person is considered their customer.
  6. Integrity and confidentiality. Security of people’s data is the key value that has to be ensured by the organizations through all technological means. 
  7. Accountability. Organizations are responsible for any misuse of people’s data, security breaches, and legal violations, and are subject to fines or criminal liability. 

What Data Should Be Kept Private? 

Given that every year over 10 million people become a victim of identity theft in the US alone, keeping our data private and secure is a must. Of course, the Internet doesn’t forget or forgive anything, so there will always be a trace of any action we took online. What we can do about it is to never disclose the sensitive data that can identify us as a natural person. 

Screenshot source: iii.org

While the full name, home address, and telephone number are considered low-sensitive, there are things you should only keep for yourself. Whether it is a place and date of birth, or passport, credit card, bank account, and social security number, the high-sensitive data help fraudsters to gain access to our accounts and take them over. Without saying, the same goes for your PINs and passwords.

There are also things about your personality that can harm you when disclosed publicly or on social media. The data about a person’s health, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs is considered highly sensitive and, thus, has extended rights under personal data protection laws.

How Long Can a Company Keep My Personal Data? 

Under modern data protection laws, companies are obliged to erase the information as soon as there is no obvious use for it. GDPR and similar acts worldwide do not set a certain timeframe but just require the organizations to minimize storage time wherever possible. This means the period in which the company can keep your data is limited to the actual business need

What defines a business need? Any operations that require people’s data for the sake of functionality, for example, a warranty period for the purchased goods or a membership term for the services. Additionally, in many countries, the companies are required to store some data of their customers under the national anti-fraud, tax, or money laundering laws. But once the term defined by those laws is forfeit, the data must be erased from the company’s servers.

What Future of Personal Data Can We Expect? 

The world of data is moving too fast so, when predicting its future, we’d rather point at the directions than some fixed truths, just like GDPR. Alone, this European legislation in only a few years changed the world to greater transparency and fairness, better customer protection, and stronger control over firms dealing with people’s data. GDPR showed the companies that developing a comprehensive privacy policy, appointing a dedicated data protection officer, and designing their products according to the principle “privacy by design” helps to establish trustworthy and loyal relationships with the customers who are now watching more closely to what happens to their data. We can definitely expect the new similar legislation other countries will come up with soon, and even a new global set of rules unifying the standards of data protection across the Web.

At the same time, stricter rules will come at the price of new scandals and lawsuits around security breaches and data privacy violations. The reports of data leaks from major firms and telecommunication providers are appearing in the news more and more often, and new illicit ways of grasping people’s personal information are in constant elaboration. Artificial intelligence and the enormous possibilities that machine learning based on big data analysis offers to businesses will only kick start this crazy data race. Pushed by increased competition, the companies are set to find new ways to make themselves stand out, as well as get attention and maintain customer loyalty, using data. The future is exciting and ambiguous.

How Ad Blocking Service Can Help You to Protect Personal Data?

Our life online appears to be the main driver of the personal data market these days. Therefore, keeping your online record clean, avoiding traps like data miners and spyware, and leaving a minimal trace behind the websites you visited, seems to be the best deal for not letting data brokers control your life. Adblocking services are designed specifically to address each of these needs. Besides the obvious blocking ads, so you don’t click any dangerous links placed there by a sneaky data broker, the best apps of this category offer all-around protection for your data. 

AdLock is a great example of how this makes a difference. Filtering all types of online ads, this app also prevents you from visiting malicious websites or using tools prone to identity theft, as well as hides your data from the nosy trackers. AdLock makes your device work faster consuming less traffic – a similar effect to you sharing less of your stuff while consuming fewer ads. Whatever the world of data in years to come would be, using an adblocker and maintaining healthy online privacy habits is a good place to enter the future.

We developed AdLock bearing in mind the importance of your privacy and adhering to the data protection regulations. AdLock will never collect your search history or online interactions, neither will it send your data to our servers, allowing you to have a direct connection to the World Wide Web. We store the absolute minimum of information about you to ensure the functionality of our product. Click here for more details about our data privacy policy. Being fully committed to the GDPR guidelines, we provide you an easy way to delete the information about yourself in our system as well. You can send the request through your personal account or by writing an email to gdpr@adlock.com.

Protect Your Data:
Windows laptop with adlock

Try AdLock for free on your Windows device

No more worrying about the security of your PC