November 24, 2020

We don’t think twice before giving out our name, address, credit card information, email-id and other personal information to companies while engaging in business activities with them.

The potential privacy risks that we sign up for while giving away our personal data are unknown to most of us. While data analysis is considered a powerful tool for businesses, it can lead to concerning data breaches.

What happens to all the data that we provide to these companies?

Companies collect our data to sell their products and keep a track record of the transactions and purchases for future reference. This data that we provide is further used for consumer behaviour analysis and advertising to boost sales.

This is not harmful if it’s kept confidential. However, the problem begins when the information is hacked or leaked due to human error or poor security. And if this happens, lots of private information is exposed to people and unauthorized third parties who might misuse this data for several unacceptable and harmful activities.

“The problem that arises is when these companies have your personal information and they end up using it for variety of other purposes that were never intended, and sometimes that can come back to bite you because you didn’t want it in the hands of unauthorized third parties with whom you have no relationship and you don’t know how they are going to use it,” said Ann Cavoukian, former information and privacy commissioner of Ontario.

What should be done to avoid data breaches?

First, we need to be aware and understand the privacy concerns of data collection. Then we need to learn the importance of protecting it. Once we know all the facts, we need to put precautions in practice.

The first step to avoid a data breach is the formation of strong privacy and security policies by the government and the big companies across the world. The implementation of these policies should be properly monitored and regulated.

Steps taken by the people, government and companies

According to Cavoukian, the Canadian government has not upgraded privacy laws since the early 2000s and it is not taking any significant steps towards it.

However, most companies now have quite strict policies for data collection and privacy. But the implementation is not as strong as needed. For example, all the data that we enter on google websites is collected in a large database. All the information there can easily be accessed for number of different reasons that are unknown to many users.

Social media websites like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, LinkedIn and many others are highly involved in data collection activities and impose a potential risk of disclosing personal data of users.

These data breach problems can be avoided if consumers, business agencies and government become aware, take necessary steps and properly implement them.

“Privacy forms the foundation of our freedom. You cannot have free and open society without a solid foundation of privacy so let’s not take it for granted; let’s make sure we preserve it now and well into the future,” said Cavoukian.

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