Data privacy in the digital space might seem like an endless battle between tech giants and consumers. We have the general public on one end of the rope and the mighty businesses and government agencies on the other.However, after welcoming a new year, we can only hope that 2021 will bring positive changes to the current situation.
Our data is harvested at a maddening pace and from numerous sources. Smartphones, devices, apps, operating systems, and smart gadgets all partake in continuous user tracking. While we have some promising changes on the way, like Google halting cookie usage, the fight for privacy is far from over.
Data trading and misuse
The Cambridge Analytica scandal was an eye-opener for us all. There has been a string of data breaches, but none could match Cambridge Analytica’s level in terms of data misuse. This incident has reignited the fight for privacy rights and data security, probably the biggest concern that the modern world faces.
Our data is harvested, sold, and used for purposes that we are not fully aware of. Misuse of data is equally prevalent. In the Snowden and Equifax data breach cases, we have already seen how personal and financial information is traded and used to accomplish various commercial gains.
Blame the information big bang
Well, there’s no denying the fact that the information big bang has led to the collection, analysis, and use of data at an unimaginable magnitude. Every day a huge amount of data is being collected from various devices and sources. Developments in IoT, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have made it easier to collect and analyze data like never before. We’re losing grip on personal data, and big corporations and government agencies are intruding our private spaces at will.
Nothing is completely safe online
Nothing seems to be hidden from the people who want to use our data: from location to shopping preferences. However, in addition to the e-commerce companies and government agencies, hackers and scammers can also access our data by breaking into the central servers and networks used to store or transmit information. Data stored or transmitted over the internet is vulnerable to hacking attempts because data breaches have increased manifold over the last decade.
Finally, what is privacy?
The definition of privacy varies from one country to another. However, it can include the following statements:
- Freedom from all types of government surveillance
- Freedom of thought
- Privacy in an individual’s home
- Control over personal information
- The right to be left alone
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in 2018. It applies to entities, collecting and retaining data about anyone in the European Union, even if it operates from other countries like China. Thus, GDPR is applicable in most countries. Personal Data brought under the purview of GDPR includes name, physical address, date of birth, government ID, genetic data, credit card numbers, email address, biometric data, account numbers, religious beliefs, location data, racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, pseudonymous data, health information, and trade union membership.
Under the GDPR, government agencies or businesses collecting personal or sensitive data can collect, store, and use the personal data of users only after providing a disclosure.
Taking control of your privacy rights in the digital space
Go through the terms of service
Before clicking on the accept button, it’s imperative to understand what happens with the data collected by the site or app owner. From ownership of the content to the disclosure, you must go through the finer points of the terms and conditions to understand the implications of sharing personal information.
Install a VPN
A Virtual Private Network allows you to surf the web anonymously, which is a great way to bypass unnecessary tracking. Atlas VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and the internet, leaving hackers or intrusive entities with fewer options to monetize your digital identity. It’s equally effective when you’re accessing websites while connected to a public Wi-Fi network. Staying under the radar becomes easier when you have a reliable VPN installed on your device.
Clear the cookies
Cookies are used to track browser data, and once you leave a site, cookies allow third parties to log your online activities long after you’ve moved out of the site. It is a good idea to refuse marketing cookies, or block them at the browser level.
Tighten privacy settings
Popular websites or applications like Facebook facilitate customized privacy settings, and you can make changes as per your needs. For instance, setting social media accounts to private is a good idea. However, this is only one channel that should receive an update in its settings department. You should adjust default settings in operating systems, apps, and other online tools to enjoy a private and safe experience.