As a citizen of the 21st century, it’s most likely that you have browsed the Internet, shopped online, or even binged on a “television” series. If you have done any of these activities online, you probably have been asked to agree on Terms of Use and Privacy Policies

In recent years there has been an increase in concerns about the privacy of data, caused by a great leakage of information; some of them even became a mediatic scandal with cases like Cambridge Analytica and lately with Whatsapp’s lasts adjustments to their privacy policies & terms of service, that caused a lot of migration to more private chat tools like Signal.

While the Internet is clearly a source of useful information for individuals, it is also a large source of information about individuals. The Internet is a highly interactive medium, and many websites require or at least request the insertion of personal information. Through online sales forms, information requests, contest entries, and other mechanisms, websites often collect a great deal of information about the people who visit (Klosek, 2000).

Do you read first or accept immediately?

Companies are legally obliged to state what they do with the information we freely give them in their Privacy Policies; sounds simple enough, right? However, many of those policies have confusing language or are so long that it will take you a week to read the whole document. They are also experts in hiding important details in their statements. When you sign up for any online service, you open the doors to your information, like handling the keys of your life to targeted advertisement, data mining, phishing, and other invasive practices.

Privacy Policies are supposed to be written to inform you about how the company is protecting your data, not hiding shady privacy practices and expecting you to accept these practices without even reading them

“Right now, we’re at a breaking point with respect to one of the key elements of brand trust: digital privacy. The crux of the problem is that, for the large part, brands haven’t been ethically handling people’s online data. Over the past few years, as data malpractices became par for the course in business (especially in big tech), so ensued the erosion of digital privacy. .” (Robert E.G. Beens, 2020)

Knowledge is power

Data breaches have existed even before the digital era; ever since companies have stored sensitive & private information and monetary records, there has been a potential threat to data leakage. 

Companies are facing a new challenge, which is the protection of their customer’s data, “now more than ever before, a company’s license to operate in the digital age is largely dependent on how it manages privacy and security” (Edelman).

What’s most concerning is that most Internet users don’t know what they’re sharing online. One particularly helpful study showed that out of 900 surveyed people, only 14% were aware of the information they were sharing online.

To resolve this issue and regain control of our digital safety, companies and policymakers will have to move the data privacy discussion beyond advertising use and the simplistic notion that aggressive data collection for the sole purpose of future use and potential value is dangerous.

Privacy should be a basic right for everyone, and we should all demand that the companies we share our information with, support that right. 

“In the meantime, there are some steps you can take to protect your data. They require you to get educated about the level of security and protection provided by your choice of products and perhaps adjusting your selections in cases, such as favoring technology companies that tend to place a higher emphasis on privacy(Robert E.G. Beens, 2020)

Sources: 

Morey, Timothy. “Customer Data: Designing for Transparency and Trust. May, 2015 from: Customer Data: Designing for Transparency and Trust (hbr.org)

Klosek, Jacqueline (2000). “Data Privacy in the Information Age”. eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost)-Worldwide.

Beens, Robert E.G. “The role Of Digital Privacy In Brand Trust”. Jan 8, 2021 from: Council Post: The Role Of Digital Privacy In Brand Trust (forbes.com)

Beens, Robert E.G. “The State Of Mass Surveillance”. Oct 20, 2020 from: The State Of Mass Surveillance – Startpage.com Blog

Edelman. “The Costs, Causes and Consequences of Privacy Risk”.